Forecasters say dry spell not yet a droughtby Stephanie Smail, Saturday January 5, 2013 - 14:07 EDT
The Bureau of Meteorology says the dry spell that has affected much of Australia's south has not been of sufficient duration to be considered a drought.
The latest heatwave, which put southern states on , came on top of prolonged dry conditions in south-eastern Australia.
The bureau says although rainfall has been scarce, there is healthy water storages in waters and dams and it has not been dry for long enough to be considered a drought.
"It's not typically of a sufficient duration for us to say this is a major drought," climate services manager David Jones said.
"But we are seeing the emergence of very dry conditions, significant rainfall deficiencies. If it does continue, clearly there will be a linkage of this to drought."
The bureau says it is unlikely that solid rainfall will arrive for months.
"We're currently moving into the driest part of the year," Mr Jones said.
"It can be rain but it tends to be patchy and often very light. There's only a fairly low likelihood that we'll see much change in the pattern across southern Australia."
The bureau's drought statement says rainfall has been below average in New South Wales, northern and western Victoria and along Queensland's east coast for the past five months.
The rain has stayed away in South Australia but rainfall figures improved in Western Australia over Christmas.
Roger McDowell, who runs cattle on 3,500 hectares near Pilliga in northern New South Wales, says the region is in drought.
"It's been drought here since the spring," he said.
"Since the green pick that came in the winter, when it dried off we had to start feeding white cotton seed and we rolled up all the oat stubble, which we're feeding out now.
He says the dry conditions are making it hard to find feed for his cattle.
"Having taken cattle down south, it's dry," he said.
"From the time you leave here, you didn't run into good feed basically until you got to Burrowa, and a month later, when I went down at Christmas time there, even it's dried off."
Mr McDowell says conditions in the area are as bad as the drought in 2002.
"Just about everyone's struggling," he said.
"We went through probably eight years of drought, and while we had two wet years, those wet years a lot of people lost their crops to the floods or got their crops downgraded severely through the wet weather coming in at either sowing time or harvest time.
"No-one has had a chance to recoup."
© ABC 2013
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