Patchy drought in South Australia

Ben Domensino, 9 October 2018

Rainfall has been unevenly distributed across South Australia in recent months, resulting in a notable contrast of crop yields across the state's agricultural areas.

Australia's southern wet season runs from April to November. During this time, South Australia's agricultural areas receive the bulk of their annual rainfall, which drives crop growth. Following the winter growing period, these crops are typically harvested in spring.

Unfortunately, some parts of South Australia have been affected by a drought that has gripped large swathes of southeastern Australia during recent months.

Last month was South Australia's fourth driest September on record, This followed a string of drier than usual months across the state between February and July. August saw some better falls in the state's west and far south, although many Northern Agricultural Areas missed out on this late-winter rain.

At the start of October, much of the state's Northern Agricultural Area had received less than 60 per cent of its long-term average wet season rainfall, with some places experiencing one of their driest April to September periods on record.

On the upper west coast of the Yorke Peninsula, Kadina only picked up 98.8mm of rain between April and September, which was its driest such period since records commenced in the late 1800s.

Whyalla Airport only received about 60mm of rain during the last six months, making it their driest April to September period since at least 1976. It was also one of the four driest such periods on record for Whyalla, with data available back to 1907.

In contrast to the parched Northern Agricultural Areas, some regions further south fared better during recent months. Late-winter rain boosted soil moisture in the Lower Eyre Peninsula and lower Yorke Peninsula districts and in some central eastern and southeastern parts of the state. According to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, crop yields are expected to be above average in these areas this year.

Adelaide has seen better rainfall than some of the state's farmlands in recent months. The city received 318mm of rain at West Terrace between April and September, which is 62mm below the long-term average average and the site's lowest total for this period in seven years.