Farmers waiting for once-in-a-blue-moon drought to break

SEVERE CONDITIONS: Paddocks no longer provide plentiful views of feed. Instead, they offer a painful reminder of the Hunter's lack of rainfall.
SEVERE CONDITIONS: Paddocks no longer provide plentiful views of feed. Instead, they offer a painful reminder of the Hunter's lack of rainfall.

It’s been deemed one of the toughest summers on the land in over a decade, with dams disappearing, feed diminishing and livestock suffering.

A tough 2016-17 summer, followed by a record dry winter and further exacerbated by our recent drought conditions means landowners and producers are now having to ration feed, intently manage water supplies and seriously consider the viability of keeping their stock. 

Of course, our farmers have faced similar drought conditions before and are likely to face them again as temperatures continue to rise. But with rainfall predictions looking grim, this relentless summer is taking it’s toll.

PAST CONDITIONS: This Bureau of meteorology map shows the extent of the 1982 drought. As indicated by the dark orange, the Hunter had the lowest rainfall on record.

PAST CONDITIONS: This Bureau of meteorology map shows the extent of the 1982 drought. As indicated by the dark orange, the Hunter had the lowest rainfall on record.

The Hunter region and parts of the Mid North Coast are now braving what farmers consider an official drought, so the big question that’s on everyone’s mind is – when will it break?

It’s a question worth millions, if only someone had the answer.  

But perhaps we could gain insight, or even a flicker of hope, by looking to past weather patterns in NSW. 

The drought has been in recent weeks coupled with another natural phenomenon, with the super blue blood moon appearing in our skies for the first time since 1982. 

While the lunar spectacular might not be of interest to everyone, it does bring with it some speculation. 

LAST YEAR: As shown by the dark red, the Hunter received the lowest rainfall on record in 2017. The map shows similar conditions to that of the 1982 chart above.

LAST YEAR: As shown by the dark red, the Hunter received the lowest rainfall on record in 2017. The map shows similar conditions to that of the 1982 chart above.

The last severe short-term drought in the Hunter region began in April 1982, when the Hunter saw the lowest rainfall on record. 

The severe conditions only worsened as the winter rain deficiencies continued into summer. 

The El Niño-related drought finally ended in February 1983, coinciding with the election of Bob Hawke, when a monsoon depression became an extratropical low and swept across Australia's interior. 

It ended just one month after the blue moon event. 

So could the reappearance of the rare lunar eclipse also mean the end of drought is near?

Recent weather conditions do seem to align with that of 1982 as the past year has had record low rainfall – mimicking the seasonal outlook of the early 1980s. 

When reviewing the Bureau of Meteorology’s yearly weather charts (as pictured), the images also show striking similarities, with record highs in the west and record lows in the east. 

If the recent blue moon was to be an indicator of a break in drought, then perhaps we can rejoice in the thought of rainfall arriving in early to mid-March. 

Of course, no one can truly determine what the weather will bring, but in current conditions it’s important to maintain hope of a rainy horizon. 

Or maybe all we need is another election. Where’s Bob when you need him?

This story When will the drought end? first appeared on The Singleton Argus.

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