Jim Andrews

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Australia East Drying Out for Now

March 5, 2013; 10:41 AM ET

It has been a wet -- indeed, spectacularly wet for many -- start to the year in eastern Australia, but welcome drying, at least temporarily, is in the works.

Drying from the south has begun to spread into Queensland, and it should continue to do so through the week, owing in part to a tropical cyclone slated to form over the distant Coral Sea.

In the meantime, locally heavy rain that was along the central Queensland coast as of March 5 will continue to shift northward along with a weakening cold front, likely reaching the Cairns area on March 6 and 7.

The abnormally wet stretch of early 2013 began with Tropical Cyclone Oswald, which spread extreme rains and record floods southward near the east coast late in January.

Having copped a break in the rain early in February, the east coast of both Queensland and New South Wales came under fire during the latter half of February, with repeated bouts of torrential rain lasting into March.

Flooding returned, with some of the hardest-hit sites in the aftermath of Oswald taking it on the chin once again.

Data posted online by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) show cumulative rainfall of between 150 percent and 300 percent of normal in the main cites between Mackay, Qld., and Sydney, N.S.W.

Rainfall at Rockhampton, Qld., being 826 mm (32.53 inches), has been 264 percent of normal to date as of March 5.

Brisbane (172 percent of normal) and Sydney (158 percent of normal) have also been significantly wet. Especially in the case of Brisbane, nearby rainfall has been much higher in some instances, as shown by BoM data.

As of Tuesday, March 5, heavy rain was falling in Queensland, mostly in the area of Mackay.

In the Pioneer River catch basin, rainfall amounts of 300 to more than 500 mm have been collected since Sunday.

At Mount William, rainfall measured by an automated rain gauge has been 565 mm, or 22.24 inches, BoM data show.

Two automated gauges in the Clarke Range have picked up a bit less than 500 mm.

River flood status as of March 5, 2013, showing a "hot spot" for flooding in eastern and southern Queensland. Many of the moderate to major flooding reports are within the west-flowing Darling River headwaters. (Bureau of Meteorology website)

Flooding in the Mackay area was being reported by the BoM on March 5; however, most area rivers had receded since March 4. Meanwhile, major flooding was ongoing on the Burnett and Kolan rivers, north of Brisbane.

Another site of major river flooding in southern Queensland was to be found in the westward-flowing Darling River headwaters, across the Great Dividing Range from Brisbane.

Offshore low pressure over the Coral Sea will hold the key as to whether the drier weather continue or not. Numerical weather forecasts as of March 5 show the low spinning up a tropical cyclone over the distant Coral Sea by late week.

The open question for the moment has to do with whether or not this weather system drift away to the southeast or hook westward to the Queensland coast. However, an approach to Queensland would not happen before March 10 at the earliest.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com


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