Not the driest at Narooma but climate records still being broken

While one local Narooma weather watcher says it is technically not the driest winter ever at Narooma, there is no denying that Australian weather records are being broken as revealed by the Climate Council.

This September saw only 1.4 mm recorded at the Narooma weather station, making it the second driest September ever, only surpassed by the 1912 reading of no rain at all.

Brian Gunter of Narooma makes a hobby out of watching the weather and while he says it has been dry on Far South Coast NSW, it is not a record-breaking dry spell.

“If one took a pub or coffee-club survey, or even had a postal vote, I am sure many locals would say that this winter has been a record dry period.  Well, what is the truth?” Mr Gunter said.

He examined the monthly rainfall records for Narooma over the 108 years since 1910, and found this September’s rainfall was the second lowest on record.  There was zero rainfall in September 1912.

But a new report from the Climate Council states more than 260 heat and low rainfall records were broken around Australia this winter.

The Climate Council released its “Hot & Dry: Australia’s Weird Winter” report, which stated the country had its warmest winter – for average maximum temperatures –  on record.

Climate Council ecologist Lesley Hughes said the hottest winter on record was related to climate change.

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“Without any meaningful action to tackle climate change, we will continue to see many more hot winters, just like this, as global temperatures rise,” Dr Hughes said.

The report also stated hot and dry winters have lead to an earlier bushfire season.

“A hot and dry winter such as the one we have just experienced has set the scene for dangerous bushfire conditions for many parts of Australia, especially in the southern states.”

So how do the actual rainfall numbers for Narooma compare this winter? Well here is what Mr Gunter compiled:

  • June, July, August & September 2017 rainfall totals at Narooma were 28.6, 19.6, 43.2 and 1.4 mm.
  • September rainfall was the second lowest on record.  There was zero rainfall in September 1912.
  • August-September rainfall was 44.6 mm, the 21st lowest.  The 1912 rainfall was 5.3 mm.
  • July-September rainfall was 64.2 mm, the 16th lowest.  The 1948 rainfall was 10.1 mm.
  • June-September rainfall was 92.8 mm, the 10th lowest.  The 1980 rainfall was 36.5 mm.
  • In 1912 there were 88 days (Aug. 7 to Nov. 2) without any rain!
  • Other years with winter rainfalls lower than this year included 1912, 1921, 1925, 1928, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1954, 1968, 1979, 1980, 1994, 2002 and 2012.

“I will let you draw your own conclusions regarding the 2017 “dry”, but I was fooled also until I looked at the records,” Mr Gunter said.

Possible water restrictions

Eurobodalla Shire Council meanwhile is warning that water restrictions could be on the cards this summer if rain doesn’t come soon.

The lack of significant rainfall and the hot, dry start to spring means Eurobodalla households are drawing on reserves in Deep Creek Dam, according to the council’s director of infrastructure services, Warren Sharpe.

“The lack of rain means that our rivers, which are our source water supply, are running low and we’re now relying on the water stored in Deep Creek Dam. We need to take measures now to reduce demand so that our water supply is secure over summer,” Mr Sharpe said.

“This means we’re gearing up to introduce water restrictions if we need to. This is never something we take lightly and would be in line with the council’s water restriction policy, which outlines five levels of restrictions triggered by the water level in Deep Creek Dam.

“Of course if we need to take this step, we will provide residents with plenty of information about what can and can’t be done under each level.

“In the meantime, we’re priming our backup water supply at the Southern Water Treatment Plant in Bodalla to ensure consistent supply throughout summer and we have strategies in place to maximise the water level in Deep Creek Dam.”