Hot, dry year breaks records

By Country News

NSW recorded its warmest year on record, as Victoria and the country as a whole sweltered through their third-warmest year on record.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement for 2018 said Australia’s annual mean temperature last year was 1.14°C above average, while both mean annual maximum and minimum temperatures were above average for all states and the Northern Territory.

While 2018 was the warmest on record for NSW for both mean temperature (1.68°C above average) and mean maximum temperature, the mean minimum temperature was the state’s fourth-warmest on record.

The bureau said NSW’s year was dominated by very dry conditions, with the third-driest January to September on record, and NSW experienced its sixth-lowest annual rainfall on record; its driest year since 2002.

Victoria also saw below average rainfall last year, with all months except December being drier than average, and both mean maximum and minimum temperatures above average across 2018.

Rainfall in Victoria last year was about 25 per cent below average, the lowest since 2006.

Victoria’s mean temperature was 1.14°C above average, making it the third-warmest year on record.

Looking forward, NSW DPI expects drought conditions affecting the state are likely to continue into 2019.

NSW DPI climate applications and digital agriculture leader Anthony Clark said large parts of western and central NSW remained in the ‘Drought’ or ‘Intense Drought’ categories of the NSW monitoring framework, despite some isolated storms throughout December.

‘‘While some parts of the state received scattered storm activity leading up to the new year, this hasn’t been sustained enough to allow for significant pasture or crop production,’’ Dr Clark said.

‘‘That means there has been very minimal opportunity for dryland summer cropping, and there are very low levels of ground cover so farmers have had to continue feeding their livestock.’’

Data from a NSW farm dam survey has underlined how critical conditions have become in some areas, particularly in western NSW.

‘‘In this part of NSW, the nature of the drought event has shifted such that farmers and communities are not just managing an agronomic event (low primary production), but the hydrological impact is evident with critically low water reserves,’’ Dr Clark said.

The bureau’s climate outlook for January to March backs up the NSW DPI predictions, as it indicates a drier than average three months to start 2019 for eastern mainland Australia.

Warmer than average days and nights are likely for almost all of Australia during the same period.