The heavens open

Sarah Luke

MANY parts of Wellington Shire have already surpassed the rainfall totals for each of the past two years, with four months still left of 2020.

The welcome news comes as the Bureau of Meteorology upgraded its La Nina watch to an alert on Tuesday, meaning the country could be in for a wet spring.

Most of Gippsland had above to very much above average July rainfall, with the bureau reporting the driest July across Victoria since 2002 – everywhere but Gippsland.

East Sale has recorded 395mm so far this year – that’s higher than last year’s total of 366.2mm, and 2018’s total of 343.6mm.

The running total is still 194.6mm shy of east Sale’s annual mean of 589.6mm, but is above average for this time of year, with September to December traditionally being the wettest four months of the year.

This winter has been more or less on par with average rainfall totals, with 104mm recorded between June 1 and Wednesday this week.

The average winter rainfall for east Sale is 133.6mm.

Last year, east Sale clocked 105.8mm between June 1 and August 31, but in 2018, it was a measly 74mm, and in 2017, only 71.2mm.

Hopefully, in a sign of good things to come, rain has fallen in east Sale on 12 of the first 19 days of August.

Just north of Sale, Maffra recorded its wettest July day on record, with 36.2mm falling on July 13 – inching past its old record of 35mm on July 7, 2001.

Maffra surpassed its 2019 rainfall total (325.8mm) in the first four months of the year, chalking up 327.2mm by the end of April.

Reaching 442.9mm by the end of July, 151.9mm above average for that time of year, Maffra is well on track to equal its average rainfall of 516.1mm.

It’s a similar story in Stratford.

After passing last year’s rainfall total in early April, Stratford was only 30mm short of its average annual rainfall of 608.5mm at the end of July.

Briagolong is now less than 84mm off its annual average total, with 564.5mm recorded to the end of July.

Down south, Giffard surpassed last year’s total earlier this month, when a 20.2mm dump on August 5 tipped the scales.

The area is now sitting on a healthy 368.7mm cumulative total for this year, about 40mm above its average for this time of year.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s El Nino-Southern Oscillation is currently neutral, but the bureau says the chance of La Nina forming in the coming months has increased to about 70 per cent – roughly three times the normal likelihood.

La Nina typically means increased rainfall across much of Australia, cooler daytime temperatures south of the tropics, a shift in temperature extremes, and a decreased frost risk.

The bureau’s La Nina watch was issued on June 10, but was upgraded to an alert on Tuesday.

This status change follows sustained cooling in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, towards La Nina thresholds, as well as an increase in trade wind strength during the past three months.

Climate models indicate more cooling is likely, with the majority of models suggesting sea surface temperatures will approach or exceed La Nina thresholds during the Southern Hemisphere’s spring.

A La Nina alert is not a guarantee that La Nina will occur – rather, an indication that most of the typical precursors of La Nina are in place.

If the La Nina follows through, it could mean a broken drought for central and east Gippsland – a welcome break for the region, in the midst of bushfire recovery and COVID-19.