The paddocks are green, the cows are happy, and many farmers are smiling after weeks of rain.

But it might not be enough to declare an end to Queensland’s drought.

Key points:

  • March was a wet month for Queensland with some areas recording their highest daily rainfall for the month on record
  • The BOM says more rain is needed over the coming months to make up for a run of dry years
  • Local committees will soon meet to decide whether to revoke drought declarations

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said more follow up rain was needed over the coming months.

“The effect of that rainfall will only last so long. It’s really going to give benefit for a period of time, a few months,” said the BOM’s Luke Shelley. 

Almost 67 per cent of the state remains drought declared with some areas being in drought since 2013.

How much rain is needed to end a drought?

March was a very wet month for Queensland, with some areas including Applethorpe and Texas receiving their highest daily rainfall for the month on record.

Rainfall deficiencies have eased in Queensland, and are now confined to southern coastal areas, according to the BoM.

But it still has not been enough to make up for a run of dry years.

Accumulated, multi-year rainfall deficits remain significant in many parts of Australia and may persist for some time.

A rainfall map across Australia for March.

While there was good rainfall across Australia in early April, more is needed to make up for years of drought.(

Supplied: Bureau of Meteorology

)

Mr Shelley said there were still severe accumulative rainfall deficiencies in an area stretching from Mackay in north Queensland, inland to Emerald, and then down to Roma and Toowoomba.

“For us to change the status of that south-east Queensland region we’d still want to see some more above-average rainfall over the coming months for that to improve.”

How can it be a drought when all the paddocks are green?

Ian Crosthwaite is a grazier and retired agronomist in the South Burnett region, where paddocks are a vista of green grass after receiving 120 millimetres of rain last month.

He said the region was experiencing a “green drought” of sorts, with minimal run-off and many dams still empty.

“Obviously that’s an issue going into the winter because usually the rainfall in the winter is much lighter, less run-off style, than we have out of our summer storms,” Mr Crosthwaite said.

A man wearing a hat standing in front of a paddock of green grass

Grazier Ian Crosthwaite says many dams in the South Burnett remain empty despite recent rain.(

ABC Southern Qld: Jon Daly

)

He said some farmers would find it difficult heading into winter if there was no further rain.

“In some ways you could class this as probably just a green drought,” he said.

What’s the forecast like for the coming months?

The BOM is predicting the coming months could be drier than average for large parts of the east coast of Australia. 

La Niña, the weather phenomenon which brings wetter than average conditions, has also faded with the El Niño Southern Oscillation now inactive.

Mr Shelley said there was a caveat to its forecast.

“The science actually isn’t particularly good at being able to forecast too far into the future for the climate outlook,” Mr Shelley said.

Who gets to declare a drought over?

While you might assume the BOM would be the authority responsible for deciding whether a drought is over, the decision lies with the state government.

Queensland’s Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said he would make the decision on whether to revoke the drought status of local council areas based on the recommendations of local committees.

A map of drought affected areas in Queensland

More than 65 per cent of Queensland remains drought declared as of March 2021. (

Supplied: Queensland Government

)

Mr Furner said the local drought committees would begin meeting in April and into May, and provide him with recommendations mid this year. 

“It’s typical of Queensland having that diverse outcome in terms of the climate … so we’ll wait and see the outcomes of those [committees] and where they go with the recommendations.”

Mr Furner said the state government would continue to provide support if local committees decided not to revoke drought declarations.

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After some decent rain, is Queensland’s record drought finally over?
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