(Ed note: as of the weekend of 18 February, following devastating fires in western Palerang and also thunderstorms and rains in that part of the world, this is the picture on the eastern side of the Divide towards Araluen).
The grass is brown and crunchy underfoot and the little trees I planted in spring are gasping their last. I was using my precious fire-fighting water trying to keep them alive, but the ever-present threat of fire makes me cautious.
Day after day I look at the Bureau of Meteorology’s seven-day forecast and calculate how much rain I might receive at my property if the forecast proves correct. So far for 2017, I have received 6mms of rain, which, against day after day of 30+ temperatures and hot westerly winds, amounts to nothing.
Last night I was the beneficiary of the vast total of 1.5mms that fell reluctantly as though it was being wrung out of the sky like the last drops from a dishcloth.
Six mm of rain so far this year
This morning I spoke to Roger Hoskins, Braidwood’s long range weather forecaster, although these days he describes himself as an observer rather than a forecaster. Will it ever rain again? I asked.
Roger smiled reassuringly and replied that yes, it would rain before Christmas. He just isn’t sure of which year. I suspect that’s a weather forecaster joke. I hope.
Roger then explained that even though the Bureau of Meteorology has predicted that the long-term trend is declining rainfall in SE Australia, our rainfall in this area is influenced by the onshore winds from the coast as well as our elevation. This means that, long-term, the rainfall in the strip of about 75kms from the coast, annual rainfall should remain stable. This indicator, he explained, fizzles out at about Canberra.
The long-term rainfall outlook, then, is fairly optimistic for this region.
Short-term? The storms we’ve been getting are isolated and unless you’re in the direct path, you miss out. We already know that climate change is already, and will continue to result in more extreme weather events. Hot will become hotter, wet will become wetter, droughts will become drier.
Meanwhile, what to do while we wait for the rain?
Helping wildlife with water
I have no stock on my property but my place is home to a small mob of kangaroos. I have been putting water out for them, and any other wildlife that is around. The roos are coming in every evening to drink and on the hot days, echnidnas and blue tongues are using the water dishes as well. Birdbaths will help keep our feathered wildlife cool and hydrated.
It is better to water trees and plants well and less often, in order to encourage their roots to go deep. In that way they are more likely to survive the protracted periods of dry.
Take heart. Christmas is just around the corner … this year.