'Total moonscape': Images reveal impact of crippling drought

·News and Video Producer
·3-min read

A smattering of tiny red dots on the map of Australia may look insignificant at first glance, but what they highlight are largely forgotten regions still crippled by drought.

Severe deficiencies have been experienced across parts of south-east and western Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia over the last 18 months, according to Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) data.

Averaging between just 60 and 70 per cent of their average rainfall during the 18 months to 30 September, Wide Bay and Burnett District have been particularly hard hit.

On the road south of Longreach the landscape is so denuded it appears like it has been ploughed. Source: Angus Emmott
On the road south of Longreach the landscape is so denuded it appears like it has been ploughed. Source: Angus Emmott

At 54 and 51 per cent below average, towns of Gin Gin and Monto both recorded their lowest on record rainfall. 

Farmer described Queensland region as a 'moonscape'

Travelling through Longreach in Central Queensland, cattle farmer Angus Emmott told Yahoo News Australia that parts of the country resemble a “total moonscape”.

The region has been impacted by drought for almost a decade, and was once again robbed of rain last summer.

Looking across the landscape, Mr Emmott said the native Mitchell grass is “totally gone”, and tumbleweed like roly poly weed which once swamped the region has long blown away.

South of Longreach, trees have clung to life, but the grasses have died. Source: Angus Emmott
In the Mitchell Grass Downs, trees have clung to life, but the native grasses have died. Source: Angus Emmott

“It looks like bare, flat ploughed paddocks, because it’s just bare earth,” he said.

“Just south of Longreach, going about 30km down to Jundah, it’s just horrific.”

No pasture on the ground for cattle and sheep farmers 

When compared to a map of the last 48 months, conditions look to have improved. 

Much of Australia has forgotten about the drought, as large parts of NSW and Victoria have experienced high rainfall this year and even the Murray Darling is looking healthier.

Compared to the last 48 months, there are now less regions with a severe deficiency of rainfall. Source: BOM
Compared to the last 48 months, there are now less regions with a severe deficiency of rainfall. Source: BOM

Lying 131km southwest of Longreach, Mr Emmott's property, Noonbah Station, is drier than usual, but is nothing compared to what he’s seeing today.

Many of the trees are surviving, but it’s the loss of pasture that’s hitting hard.

“If you’re running a beef or sheep enterprise and it hasn’t rained properly for nine years, you’ve got a few problems,” he said.

“There's been some storm rain over the last three years but there's been big areas that have missed out.

“The other thing is, this last summer was supposed to be wet because of the La Niña, but it still didn't rain.”

Longer droughts predicted due to climate change

As the effects of climate change continue to be felt across the globe, the BOM predicts a decrease in cool season rainfall, resulting in extended periods of drought.

Once prevalent across the landscape, roly poly (right) has now disappeared. Source: Angus Emmott
Once prevalent across the landscape, roly poly (right) has now disappeared. Source: Angus Emmott

More heat extremes and few cold extremes are likely, and rain will become more intense, but fall for a shorter period of time.

Due to the saturation of global emissions already in the atmosphere, their impact will be felt for decades to come even if fossil fuel use is reduced. 

As extreme weather worsens around the globe, most developed nations have committed to net zero emissions by 2050

Australia's government is yet to announce whether it will do the same.

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