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The sunburnt country is awash

Record-breaking rain means huge Australian arid-land lakes are visible from space.

Australia has one of the most unpredictable rainfall patterns in the world, and this is one of those unpredictable years. For the past few months, the repeated downfalls have left large pools of water lying in arid lands in Western Queensland. It’s great news for farmers. The water will, over the next year, flow south through the Darling River system, restoring parched watercourses, swamps, and dams. The Darling River system flows from Queensland through New South Wales and into South Australia.

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Meteorology announced that the rains were “exceptional”:

The most remarkable aspect of this event was the area covered by the heavy rainfall and the total volume of rainfall that fell. Daily totals exceeded 100 mm over 1.7% of Australia on 1 March and 1.9% on 2 March. The latter is the largest area of 100 mm-plus daily totals on a single day in the Australian meteorological record, breaking the previous record of 1.7% set on 22  December 1956. 28 February was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory with an NT-wide average of 29.23 mm, while 2 March set a new record for Queensland with a Statewide average of 31.74 mm.

And after that record-breaking rain, the rain kept falling.

But, this year, the widespread repeated rainfall has filled up floodplains. Note the scale. The image is almost 1500 km (900 miles) wide. Photo taken March 14, 2010.

queensland floods 2010

Images thanks to the NASA Earth Observatory.

The rain has been so extraordinary, the 7:30 Report described how some of the worst drought-affected areas of Australia have finally got relief.

Such is the nature of the Australian climate that in parts of Eastern Australia that have been locked in drought for a decade, they’re now praying for the rain to stop.

Some areas of drought remain but there’s widespread jubilation at the change in fortunes.

Blitzing mean monthly rainfall figures

The rains began in late December after Cyclone Laurence crossed the West Australian coast, and the after-effects of heavy rain were felt days later as far away as NSW.

In February, monthly rainfalls hit 400% above the mean across thousands of square kilometers.

Map Graph: percentage rainfall Australia february 2010

In March, the deluge continued.

Map Graph: percentage rainfall Australia March 2010

The total amount of rain that has fallen so far in 2010 is quite respectable, thank you  (400mm = nearly 16 inches, 1200mm = 47 inches).

Map Graph: percentage rainfall Australia totals 2010

The six-month drought map. Which areas have had deficient levels of rain? Not many.
Map Graph: percentage rainfall Australia February 2010

The Australian climate being what it is, I don’t want to read overly much into one wet season. But, it’s been a long time since I saw so many news stories with such happy farmers, and after years of heartbreaking droughts, it’s not a moment too soon.

Late Notes

How silly can weather get? Apparently it rained so much that fish even fell from the sky in central Australia. Seriously.

It rained yesterday in Perth for the first time in122 days, and boy did it rain. One of the worst storms in 50 years has caused some damage in nearly everyone’s household that I’ve spoken too (strictly non-scientific sample that). Up to 150 sets of traffic lights are out. Hail stones like golf balls left dimples in hundreds of cars.

Cows caught in the floods image credit: ABC Feb 2010.

Thanks to Helen for correcting my spelling with Cyclone “Lawrence”.

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