Victoria gets strong quarterly wet start with more rain on the way

Victoria gets strong quarterly wet start with more rain on the way

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SOAKED: Much of Victoria has received a wet start to 2020. Photo by Laura Ferguson.

SOAKED: Much of Victoria has received a wet start to 2020. Photo by Laura Ferguson.

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Rainfall of close to 200mm was recorded in parts of the state.

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Rainfall totals more than doubled in parts of Victoria in the first quarter of 2020 compared to last year as seasonal outlooks predict a wetter than average year ahead.

Above-average rain for the first three months of the year was backed up by a wet start to April with the north-west and central region receiving their monthly rainfall in just five days.

With more wet weather on the way, the cool start to the year has given economic benefits to regions devastated by bushfires and prolonged drought.

But pockets of the state including far East Gippsland and the far south-west are yet to receive decent rainfall as the rest of the state takes advantage of the promising start to autumn.

Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist David Martin said parts of Victoria had received up to 200 millimetres of rain more in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year.

"Across central districts, into southern and western Gippsland, we've had 100-200 millimetres more in 2020 than we did in the first quarter of 2019," Mr Martin said.

"Mildura has had not quite so much in the far north-west but it has been wetter there this year but only by a little bit.

"Places like Nhill and Horsham are 50mm above where they were this time last year."

In the Latrobe Valley, more than 250mm has fallen since the start of 2020, in contrast to one of its driest first quarters on record in 2019.

In central Victoria, Ballarat has received more than 206mm compared to just 32mm at the same time last year, while in the north-west Mildura (68mm) is well above its 2019 quarterly total of just 8.6mm.

Mr Martin said a combination of weather events contributed to the wet start of the year, including ex-tropical cyclone Esther which pushed moisture from the north down into Victoria in March.

"We would normally have some big driver happening in the Indian or Pacific Ocean at this time of year but there hasn't really been that one big driver ... it's been a lot of things," Mr Martin said.

"We've had some warmer waters around northern Australia and that's been a good moisture source along with the remnants of the TC Esther.

"We've also just had this north-west cloud band come through in April bringing rain from the north-west, whereas last year it wasn't really happening."

While most of the state is lapping high rainfall totals, the far south-west and far East Gippsland remain the only to regions which have received below average falls.

Alpine areas recorded the highest totals for the first quarter with Mount Useful (606mm), Howitt Plains (600), Mount Baw Baw (587), Ferny Creek (540) and Kinglake West (535) the wettest parts of the state.

In the north-east, 214mm fell at Wodonga in the three months to March 31 while the Gippsland town of Stratford (392mm) has almost 200mm more in the gauge compared to the same time last year.

Victorian rainfall at a glance since January 1

  • Stratford: 392mm
  • Nilma North: 334mm
  • Wodonga: 214mm
  • Ballarat: 206mm
  • Echuca: 164mm
  • Kerang: 155mm
  • Dimboola: 116mm
  • Ouyen: 103.7 mm
  • Swan Hill: 87mm

Autumn break

As seasonal outlooks predict a wetter than average season ahead, the Bureau of Meteorology says the autumn break has technically arrived.

The BoM defines an autumn break once parts of the state have received 25mm or more over three consecutive days or 30mm over a seven-day period.

"We've now seen the change in the weather pattern - we've got that cooler weather - and that would suggest that we've got the autumn break coming through," Mr Martin said.

"But a lot of that rain came from the north and really when you talk about an autumn break, it's a change in the weather pattern. Normally, having that rain come through from the south-west, which is what you'd see through winter, and we haven't seen a lot of that yet."

Some regions are yet to receive the break including in the Mallee, the far south-west and sections of the South Gippsland coast.

Soil moisture 

A tool used by the Bureau of Meteorology indicates soil moisture levels are above average for most parts of the state, except the far south-west and East Gippsland.

The Australian Water Resources Assessment Landscape model indicates root-zone moisture levels are wetter than average in the northern and central districts.

The model measures moisture levels in the top metre of soil.

"Those areas with wetter than average soils correspond closely with the areas that have had above average rainfall since the start of the year," Mr Martin said.

"Having wet moisture in those areas which are heading into the planting and growing season will be very welcomed as long as it doesn't get saturated."

About 45 kilometres south-west of Horsham in the Wimmera, grain grower and sheep farmer Greg McDonald, Toolondo, said recent autumn rain had laid the foundations for a promising winter.

"The last rain we had on the weekend was 20-30mm depending on what block you're at and it's really set up for not only the growing season but also the sheep," Mr McDonald said.

"A lot of clover has shot up in the paddock and we've started sowing clover seed for hay and with the cooler summer we experienced - it has prolonged a lot of our feed."

Optimism in the far north-west

In the Millewa, grain grower and sheep farmer Ian Arney, Werrimull, received more rainfall in the first three months of 2020 compared to the whole of 2019.

"We've had anywhere from 86mm at one end of the property to 117mm down the other end of the property," Mr Arney said.

"At this point last year we were barely at double figures but this year we've seen a huge amount of medick and clover and grass, which has started to germinate.

"We're much more hopeful.

"It makes you feel really good because the last two years have been horrible but it's renewed hope it can actually rain here."

Drier far east

At the opposite end of the state in East Gippsland, beef producer Graeme Connley, Tonghi Creek, said rainfall had been scarce since the bushfires.

"Straight after the fires we had about three inches of rain which put the fires out," Mr Connley said.

"We've had an inch-and-a-half in the last fortnight and that's kept us going but it's no where near enough.

"If we don't get rain very soon it's going to be a jolly hard winter."

Mr Connley, who has lived at Tonghi Creek since birth, said waterways remained dry but in the last two weeks dams in gullies had started to fill after a few light showers.

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