Weekly update - 3 December 2020

Weekly Australian Climate,
Water and Agricultural Update

Key issues

  • During the week ending 2 December troughs and cold fronts generated showers and thunderstorm activity across parts of northern, central and southern Australia.
  • Across eastern Australia, several heatwaves in November coupled with low rainfall are likely to have reduced production prospects of some early sown summer crops.
  • While low rainfall during November allowed winter crop harvesting to proceed largely without delay, these dry conditions have constrained spring planting of summer crops. In areas with low soil moisture, farmers planting intentions and favourable summer crop growth will rely on the above average rainfall outlook for the remainder of the growing season being realised.
  • Nationally, spring 2020 rainfall was average to well above average across most southern cropping regions, and extremely low to average across cropping regions in Western Australia and Queensland. Average or better rainfall during September and October benefitted winter crop yield and pasture production across much of southern and eastern Australia.
  • Over the next eight days, troughs and cold fronts are expected to generate showers and storms over northern, western and eastern Australia. Across cropping regions, rainfall of between 10 and 25 millimetres is expected across parts of eastern and northern New South Wales. Rainfall of between 5 and 10 millimetres is expected in cropping regions across parts of southern and eastern Queensland, central and western New South Wales, southern Victoria and central South Australia.
  • Water storage levels in the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) decreased by 191 gigalitres (GL) between 25 November 2020 and 2 December 2020. The current volume of water held in storage is 15,118 GL, which represents 60% of total capacity.
  • Allocation prices in the Victorian Murray below the Barmah Choke decreased from $250 per ML to $210 per ML between 26 November 2020 and 3 December 2020. Prices are lower in the Goulburn-Broken, Murrumbidgee and regions above the Barmah Choke, due to binding of the Goulburn intervalley trade and Murrumbidgee export limits, and the Barmah Choke trade constraint.

Climate

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Rainfall this week

During the week ending 2 December 2020 troughs and cold fronts generated showers and thunderstorm activity across parts of northern, central and southern Australia.

Rainfall totals of between 10 and 50 millimetres were recorded across parts of northern Queensland, northern and central Western Australia and the north and south of the Northern Territory, and across isolated parts of central and eastern New South Wales, southern Victoria, south-eastern South Australia and south-western Western Australia. Rainfall in excess of 50 millimetres was recorded across parts of northern Western Australia and isolated parts of the north of the Northern Territory and western Tasmania.

In Australia’s cropping regions, rainfall totals of between 5 and 25 millimetres were recorded across parts of central New South Wales, western South Australia and southern Western Australia, and across isolated parts of central Queensland and southern Victoria. Little to no rainfall was recorded across remaining cropping regions during the week ending 2 December 2020.

Limited rainfall across most cropping regions during the week ending 2 December 2020 has benefitted the progress of the winter crop harvest, as harvest activities wrap up in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales and are well underway across southern Australia. However, these dry conditions continue to constrain the planting of summer crops and likely to adversely affect the germination and establishment of dryland crops sown on variable soil moisture.

Rainfall for the week ending 2 December 2020

Map showing weekly rainfall totals in Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

©Commonwealth of Australia 2020, Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Issued: 2/12/2020

Note: The rainfall analyses and associated maps utilise data contained in the Bureau of Meteorology climate database, the Australian Data Archive for Meteorology (ADAM). The analyses are initially produced automatically from real-time data with limited quality control. They are intended to provide a general overview of rainfall across Australia as quickly as possible after the observations are received. For further information go to http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainfall/

Monthly temperatures

November 2020 was warmer than average nationally and highest on record for November with a national mean temperature of 2.47°C above average.

Maximum and minimum temperatures for November were above average to highest on record across most of Australia. Maximum temperatures were below average across parts of south-western Western Australia and minimum temperatures were average across parts of south-western Western Australia. Across eastern Australia, very much above average temperatures coupled with low rainfall are likely to have reduced production prospects of some early sown summer crops.

Maximum temperature deciles for November 2020

Map showing maximum temperature anomalies for Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

©Commonwealth of Australia 2020, Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Issued: 01/12/2020

Minimum temperature deciles for November 2020

Map showing minimum temperature anomalies for Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

©Commonwealth of Australia 2020, Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Issued: 01/12/2020

Note: Maximum and minimum temperatures for October 2020 compared with temperature recorded for that period during the historical record (1900 to present). For further information go to: http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/temp/index.jsp

Monthly rainfall

November 2020 rainfall was below average to well below average across much of the eastern two‑thirds of Australia, and above average to well above average across parts of Western Australia. Nationally, rainfall for the month was 41% below average.

November rainfall was generally extremely low to below average in most summer cropping regions in northern New South Wales and Queensland. Drier than normal conditions during November have allowed the harvest of winter crops across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to proceed largely without delay. However, these dry conditions have constrained spring planting of summer crops. Production prospects of early planted summer crops are likely to have been adversely affected due to the low rainfall, low soil moisture and warmer than average temperatures. Rainfall in Western Australian cropping regions arrived too late to benefit winter crops as harvest continued.

As many growers in Queensland are likely to only produce modest winter crops due to the dry growing season this year, there is substantial interest in sowing a large summer crop. In areas with low soil moisture, farmers planting intentions and favourable summer crop growth will rely on the above average rainfall outlook for the remainder of the growing season being realised.

Rainfall percentiles for November 2020

Map showing the rainfall deciles for October 2020 in Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology
Note: Rainfall for November 2020 is compared with rainfall recorded for that period during the historical record (1900 to present). For further information, go to http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/

Seasonal rainfall

Spring 2020 rainfall was slightly below average nationally, with mixed conditions throughout the season and particularly within cropping regions. Spring 2020 rainfall was well below average to average across most cropping regions in Queensland and Western Australia, and across parts of northern New South Wales. Severely deficient to extremely low rainfall was recorded in isolated cropping regions across parts central and southern Queensland and the north of the Western Australian wheat belt. In contrast, average to well above average rainfall was recorded in cropping regions across most of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The season began with generally average rainfall across Australia’s cropping regions. This rainfall stabilised crop yields potential and pasture growth rates in most southern Australian growing regions. In contrast, low September totals in parts of the Western Australian wheat belt followed below average rainfall during winter, increasing concern for yield and pasture production in these regions as temperatures increased.

The influence of La Niña strengthened in October, brining moderate but variable rainfall that largely benefitted agricultural production across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. However, in some growing regions, October rainfall impeded hay production and grain harvest activities and may have impacted the quality of crops that were ready to harvest. The Western Australia wheat belt recorded low October totals, significantly impacting crop yields.

During November the La Niña weakened temporarily and the Southern Annular Mode briefly returned to neutral. This contributed to generally extremely low to below average rainfall in most summer cropping regions and generally well below average to average across southern cropping regions, with the exception of Western Australia. The agricultural impact of these generally dry conditions during November have been discussed in the Monthly rainfall section (see Section 1.3).

Rainfall percentiles for spring 2020 (1 September 2020 to 30 November 2020)

Map showing the rainfall deciles for spring 2020 in Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology
Note: Rainfall for September 2020 to November 2020 is compared with rainfall recorded for that period during the historical record (1900 to present). For further information, go to http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/

Monthly soil moisture

Upper layer soil moisture in November  2020 was below average to extremely low for this time of year across parts of the eastern two‑thirds of Australia, largely reflecting rainfall patterns during the month. Modelled soil moisture was above average to extremely high across parts of Western Australia. Upper layer soil moisture is important at the beginning of the summer cropping season since plant germination and establishment is highly dependent on the moisture in this top 10 cm of the soil profile.

Relative upper layer soil moisture was well below average to extremely low for this time of year across cropping regions in northern New South Wales and central and southern Queensland. Soil moisture was average to below average across cropping regions in northern Queensland and central New South Wales.

Modelled upper layer soil moisture for November 2020

Map showing the upper layer soil moisture for October 2020 in Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology (Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape model)
Note: This map shows the levels of modelled upper layer soil moisture (0 to 10 centimetres) during November 2020. This map shows how modelled soil conditions during November 2020 compare with November conditions modelled over the reference period (1911 to 2016). Dark blue areas on the maps were much wetter in November 2020 than during the reference period. The dark red areas were much drier than during the reference period. The bulk of plant roots occur in the top 20 centimetres of the soil profile. Soil moisture in the upper layer of the soil profile is therefore useful indicator of the availability of water, particularly for germinating seed.

Lower layer soil moisture for November  2020 was above average to extremely high for this time of year across parts of southern and northern Australia. Soil moisture was below average to extremely low across scattered parts of central and eastern Australia.

In summer cropping regions, lower layer soil moisture was average to well above average for northern New South Wales, with extremely high soil moisture in isolated parts of central-eastern New South Wales. Soil moisture was generally average across most Queensland cropping regions, with well below average to extremely low soil moisture in isolated parts of central-western and northern Queensland.

Modelled lower layer soil moisture for November 2020

Map showing the lower layer soil moisture for October 2020 in Australia. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

Source: Bureau of Meteorology (Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape model)
Note: This map shows the levels of modelled lower layer soil moisture (10 to 100 centimetres) during November 2020. This map shows how modelled soil conditions during November 2020 compare with November conditions modelled over the reference period (1911 to 2016). Dark blue areas on the maps were much wetter in November 2020 than during the reference period. The dark red areas were much drier than during the reference period. The bulk of plant roots occur in the top 20 centimetres of the soil profile. The lower layer soil moisture is a larger, deeper store that is slower to respond to rainfall and tends to reflect accumulated rainfall events over longer time periods.

Rainfall forecast for the next 8 days

Troughs and cold fronts are expected to generate showers and storms over northern, western and eastern Australia during the next eight days. Rainfall totals of between 10 and 50 millimetres are forecast for parts of eastern New South Wales, northern and eastern Queensland, southern Victoria,  the north of Western Australia, the north of the Northern Territory and much of Tasmania. Rainfall in excess of 50 millimetres is expected across parts of northern Western Australia and western Tasmania.

In cropping regions, rainfall of between 10 and 25 millimetres is expected across parts of eastern and northern New South Wales. Rainfall of between 5 and 10 millimetres is expected in cropping regions across parts of southern and eastern Queensland, central and western New South Wales, southern Victoria and central South Australia. Little to no rainfall is expected across remaining cropping regions during the next eight days.

Total forecast rainfall (mm) for the period 3 December to 10 December 2020

Map of the total forecast rainfall for the next 8 days. Image provided by the Bureau of Meteorology. Please refer to accompanying text for a more detailed description.

©Commonwealth of Australia 2020, Australian Bureau of Meteorology - Issued: 3/12/2020

Note: This rainfall forecast is produced from computer models. As the model outputs are not altered by weather forecasters, it is important to check local forecasts and warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Commodities

Information on weekly price changes in agricultural commodities is now available at the Weekly commodity price update.

Water

Water storages, water markets and water allocations - current week

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Last reviewed: 13 January 2021
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