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Parts of Central Australia driest on record, according to Bureau of Meteorology

Katrina Beavan, Monday September 25, 2017 - 10:14 EST
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Many parts of the southern Northern Territory have not had any rain since February. - ABC

Parts of Central Australia are experiencing their driest period on record, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

It was a wet Christmas and a very wet New Year for many properties throughout the district, with up to 100 millimetres falling in some areas.

But since then, it has been quite a different story.

Greg Browning, regional climate services manager for the Bureau of Metrology, said after the rainy summer, the tap basically turned off.

"Since February, pretty much all the southern third of the Territory has received single figure rainfall totals, but they did start the year quite well," he said.

"While some parts of the far south west did see a little bit of rain around Easter time, all that rain basically missed further parts east.

"When you're looking at the Central Southern parts, they have completely missed out.

Mr Browning said about 2 millimetres of rain had fallen in Alice Springs since March, while the area of Arltunga was experiencing its driest conditions on record.

However, he said Alice Springs itself was not at record level yet.

"It's not unusual that they do go months on end without rainfall, and every month of the year there have been zero rainfall totals for Alice Springs.

"Apart from Arltunga no real sites are breaking records, but a lot of it is probably in its lowest 10 per cent, certainly the lowest 20 per cent of records in much of that area south of around Ti Tree."



More cattle trucked

For some pastoralists, the dry has meant trucking out more cattle than usual.

One of those is Colleen Costello, whose family owns and runs New Crown, Lilla Creek, Horseshoe Bend and Andado Stations, all south of Alice Springs.

"It's pretty dry so far, we're lucky we've still got a bit of dry feed, we haven't had any rain since January of February so we're looking up the road for some," she said.

"It's not the worst of years, it's not the best of years, it's probably just average.

According to Ms Costello they were looking to lighten off their numbers so they would not be carrying any more cattle than they had to.

"We've been in this position before and we will be again, we've been worse than this, so I don't think we're in dire straits or anything.

"Hopefully we'll get a bit of rain before the year is out."

Ms Costello said the family was fortunate to have options during dry spells.

"We've also got scope to open up a bit more country so we can put the younger cattle out onto fresh country, so we're lucky like that, we've got options and choices."

For Ben Heaslip at Bond Springs Station, just north of Alice Springs, the situation is similar.

"It looks like it could be a dry summer, so we're just trying to move cattle that need to be moved and just getting ready for it to not rain.

"We've been busy mustering, fortunately because it hasn't rained we've been able to continue and move cattle where we need to.

"We've been grading our fence lines, grading fire breaks and doing what we need to do to try and prepare for fires and no rain."

He said in this part of the world dry spells seemed to come and go.

"Every 10 years you have a drought and every ten years you have over 30 inches in one year, so that's about the cycle

Looking forward

As for whether there is rain on the horizon, Greg Browning said there was no real trend towards significantly dryer or wetter conditions than usual.

"It will pretty much come down to what weather systems will make their way through.

"[They] really need that sort of humidity to start making [its way] down from north, which would happen later in the wet season towards the summer months.

"There is certainly no real sign of decent rainfalls making up for the deficiencies that they've had in the first half of the year."


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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