There’s a 90 per cent chance of healthy rain in the Albury region on Friday and, by golly, don’t our farmers need it.
The Riverina might not be in drought, officially, but a dry start to the year – and the likelihood of a warm and dry winter – has farmers on edge and desperately hoping that the predicted 10-20mm eventuates.
It’s crunch time for decent rain to get dry-sown crops out of the ground, boost those that have already emerged from the parched earth or simply help farmers decide whether they’ll take the gamble.
The eyes on the skies come as livestock producers hand-feed stock – many of them tapping into “drought reserves”.
The NSW government’s latest drought map, updated this week, showed 92 per cent of the Riverina, including Albury, was in “drought onset”, with the remainder on “drought watch”.
From a cropping perspective, farmers can still recover, providing it does rain at some stage, but where it can really hurt the bottom line is feeding livestock.
Without rain, it’s can be very expensive for farmers to feed sheep with grain and hay.
Just 115mm of rain has fallen in the Albury area in 2018, well down on the 184mm we’d had this time 12 months ago.
To put those figures into perspective, on average we’ve normally received 298mm by this time of year.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Albury’s average annual rainfall over the past 35 years is 710mm.
Deniliquin, meanwhile, had its lowest autumn rainfall in 21 years of record this year, with 23.6mm falling at the town’s airport.
The previous seasonal low was 28.2mm in 2013; the autumn average is 75mm.
In short, we’ve got a long way to go.
Ben Domensino, from Weatherzone, said a northwest cloud band drawing moisture from the Indian Ocean would cause welcome widespread rain over parts of southern NSW in the next day or two.
“While northwest cloud bands like this one are typical at this time of year, they have been noticeably absent in recent months, and so has the rain they usually bring,” Mr Domensino said. “There are early signs that another rain-bearing system could sweep over the nation’s south and southeast early next week, although it’s too early to know how much rain this next system will being, and where.”
Let’s hope everyone who needs the rain gets their fair share.