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Upper Hunter locals say the region is on track for a good year of rain, are hopeful the drought is over

By Mike Pritchard, Saturday May 16, 2020 - 13:27 EST
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The Bureau of Meteorology predicts a wetter-than-average winter for most of Australia. - ABC

A chorus is building across New South Wales in the form of one hopeful question: is the drought over?

Downfalls have been welcomed across drought-ravaged areas of the state, with many farmers able to sow crops and restock sheep and cattle.

Historical data recorded in the Upper Hunter region by the Department of Agriculture, and dating back to the 1880s, has prompted further debate to whether the drought is behind us.

Upper Hunter stock and station agent, Peter MacCallum, is confident the rainfall graph suggests we are well on the way out of the worst drought in living memory.

The graph shows that during the four worst droughts recorded, the level of the lowest rainfall is about the same before moving back up.

"[At] the end of each of those four-year droughts, the rainfall tends to go up suddenly and it looks like doing it again," Mr MacCallum said.

He said the Upper Hunter has received 350 millimetres since January 1 and the graph indicated that it was going back up above the 500mm mark, the average for the region.

"Last year we had 12 inches [304mm] for the entire year, which is historically right at the bottom [of the graph]," Mr MacCallum said.

"It certainly shows a pattern."

Joining the chorus was Wybong farmer, Gordon Gallagher, who for nearly 70 years, has been farming and suffering through many droughts.

"It must be over," Mr Gallagher said.

"Before Christmas I said, 'I've never seen the countryside looking so bad,' and now I've never seen it looking any better."

Backed up by experts

The Bureau of Meteorology, in its latest , has predicted a wetter-than-average winter for much of Australia

And meteorologist Don White of Weatherwatch said spring rain may be on the horizon too.

"The Indian Ocean Dipole is showing a trend towards negative, which means a little bit more early winter rainfall in south-eastern Australia," he said.

"And the Pacific Ocean is showing a trend of the sub-surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific, indicating it could be heading towards … a weak La Niña in Spring, which would be good news for eastern Australia and spring rainfall."

Mr White said there were calls for cautious optimism, with more positive signs than negative ones.

"It looks like the average pattern, but it could be even wetter than normal rather than drier than normal," he said.


© ABC 2020

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