Drought Monitoring In Australia

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Drought is not rare in Australia. There may be few countries in the world where drought occurrence is more frequent than in Australia. Every state has developed its own procedures to identify and monitor the drought situation.

AGROMETEOROLOGY TABLE 5.8. Crop Moisture Index (CMI)

CMI values when index increased or CMI values when index did not change from previous week decreased from previous week

CMI values when index increased or CMI values when index did not change from previous week decreased from previous week

3.0 and above

Excessively wet, some fields flooded

3.0 and above

Some drying, but still excessively wet

2.0 to 2.99

Too wet, some standing water

2.0 to 2.99

More dry weather needed, work delayed

1.0 to 1.99

Prospects above normal, some fields too wet

1.0 to 1.99

Favorable, except still too wet in spots

0 to 0.99

Moisture adequate for present needs

0 to 0.99

Favorable for normal growth and field work

0 to -0.9

Prospects improved, but rain still needed

0 to-0.9

Topsoil moisture short, germination slow

-1.0 to -1.99

Some improvement, but still too dry

-1.0 to-1.99

Abnormally dry, prospects deteriorating

-2.0 to -2.99

Drought eased, but still serious

-2.0 to-2.99

Too dry, yield prospects reduced

-3.0 to-3.99

Drought continues, rain urgently needed

-3.0 to-3.99

Potential yields severely cut by drought

-4.0 and below

Not enough rain, still extremely dry

-4.0 and below

Extremely dry, most crops ruined

NSW Agriculture has been monitoring the monthly status of drought in New South Wales. Based on this assessment, the government has provided various forms of assistance to drought-affected people. To complete this procedure, Rural Land Protection Boards (RLPBs) supply the relevant data.

The RLPBs supply the information in a standard format. The information given is on meteorological conditions; agronomic conditions; stock numbers (change from normal); livestock condition; agistment of stock (change from normal); hand feeding (change from normal); water supply; environmental conditions; other drought-related factors; and the overall recommendation of the board. Except for meteorological conditions and other drought-related factors, the information on all the other factors is on a graded scale. The information on meteorological conditions covers data on rainfall and evaporation for as many stations as are available in the board's boundaries. In addition, data are also sought on wind, frost, and temperature.

All the data received from the board are compiled, analyzed, and mapped to demarcate the areas that meet the drought criteria. The meteorological data obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology are analyzed separately to assess the drought situation on the basis of decile ranking of the current season's rainfall. The map showing the spatial extent of the drought, along with recommendations pertaining to the drought, is then sent to the minister of agriculture.

In Queensland, procedures adopted to identify properties affected by drought are different from those used to identify areas affected by drought. Furthermore, conditions of drought considered for livestock-dominated enterprises are different from those considered for agricultural, horticultural, and sugar enterprises (Queensland Department of Primary Industries, 1995; Rural Industry Business Services, 1997).

Official drought declaration in Queensland is made under extreme drought conditions. Events of an extreme nature under the Queensland drought policy, based on historical records, occur once in every 10 to 15 years. Such events are usually associated with an extreme lack of effective rains over two or more consecutive seasons. When drought becomes widespread in a shire, local drought committees make an assessment of the seasonal conditions in terms of

• availability of pasture and water,

• condition of the stock,

• whether drought mortalities of stock are occurring,

• the extent of movement of stock to force sales or slaughter and to agistment,

• quality of fodder introduced,

• assessment of agricultural and horticultural industries,

• number of individual property declarations that have been issued, and

• whether other abnormal weather factors have affected the situation.

In addition, field officers of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) are required to hold consultations with fellow officers of the department, local drought committees, and other knowledgeable persons concerning conditions. The local drought committee makes a formal recommendation and submission to the Natural Disaster Relief Section (NDRS) through the stock inspector (coordinator) for processing the submission.

The Natural Disaster Relief Section analyzes the monthly rainfall records of the last 12 months, and these are compared to the historical records of the area to identify those areas experiencing an extreme event (one in ten to fifteen years). Provided all criteria have been met, the NDRS makes a recommendation to the minister for primary industries who, in consultation with the treasurer, declares an area to be drought affected.

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