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Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders

5 June 2006

Bureau confirms New South Wales long term dry spell


A study by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology into historical rainfall across NSW has uncovered a pattern of recurring extended dry and wet periods.  In particular, NSW endured a lower rainfall regime from 1900 to 1946, with a statewide average annual rainfall of 478 mm across these 47 years. A marked shift occurred around 1947 to a higher rainfall regime, which persisted through to around 2000.  Since 2000 a protracted dry and, on this occasion, exceptionally warm period has set in over NSW and in fact much of eastern Australia.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for the Bureau of Meteorology, stated that the period 2001 to 2005 has been the driest five-year period since 1968 and the warmest five-year period recorded for NSW since 1910 when reliable temperature records began over Australia.

The statewide average rainfall for the past five years has been only 457.6 mm compared with the standard reference period (1961-90) average of 566.0 mm. The only five-year period in the rainfall record (beginning in 1900) significantly drier than the last five years was in the mid 1940s (439.1 mm in 1942-46).  The current dry period has also been accompanied by above average temperatures.  January 2001 to December 2005 is the warmest five-year period in the statewide high-quality temperature record, which is available from 1950.  The average maximum temperature for NSW was 1.2°C above the average of 23.9°C.

Further evidence of the protracted dry period has been the absence of extensive heavy rain events during this period and, in particular, of flooding across inland NSW which was a recurrent feature during the years from 1950 to 2000 said Mr Hunt. The last widespread flooding event across inland NSW occurred in November 2000.

Media enquiries:
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's office) 0415 740 722

Commonwealth of Australia