04/10/2017 11:46 AM AEDT | Updated 04/10/2017 12:15 PM AEDT

The Relentless Dry Spell Which Has Turned Sydney To Straw And Dust

Further proof that it's hard to get a drink in Sydney.


You know what nobody has heard in Sydney so far this spring? Lawnmowers. It's been so dry that the grass has barely grown an inch in months.

That is, if you can still call it grass. Sydney is so dry right now, most grass has turned to scratchy yellow straw, or simply to dirt.

The other thing, obviously, that no one has heard in Sydney of late is the pitter-patter of rain. The rainfall figures in Australia's most populous city, or rather the lack of them, are quite staggering.

Unwatered strip of grass on a Sydney suburban street on October 4, 2017.
  • In the past 60 days (August 5 to October 4), Sydney has received just 1.6mm of rain.
  • Sydney just had its driest September ever. It received just 0.2mm of rain in September, the lowest measurable amount. That's literally not enough to wet the ground properly.
  • That 0.2mm recording on September 20 was at the official city weather station at Observatory Hill, near the Harbour Bridge. Many suburban stations recorded nothing over the whole month.
  • It has been 22 years since any month in Sydney had as little rain as this September.
  • Because of that one September day of 0.2mm, and because of a couple of days of extremely light, barely ground-wetting rain in August, Sydney has not exceeded its record rainless streak.
  • Also, because the first half of June was very wet, the three months figures for winter overall meant that Sydney's winter was only marginally drier than usual.
  • But Sydney has just 10 rain days in the last 100 days, from late June to now. And only two of those days saw over 1mm. It really has been exceptionally rain-free.

As we wrote early in 2016 when we were frustrated by a cricket Test ruined by rain in Sydney, Sydney is in fact Australia's second wettest capital city. Its 1212mm annual average rainfall places it just behind Darwin.

Sydney's rainfall also tends to be uniformly spread throughout the year. Sydney has nothing like the seasonal variation of other southern capitals like Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth -- where winter rainfall substantially exceeds summer rainfall. It can rain all year round in Sydney, and usually does.


So when will normal transmission resume?

There's next to nothing on the forecast for the coming week, and the Bureau of Meteorology is pretty much hedging its bets for the coming three months.

What we can say is that there are signs that there appears to be a break-up in the pattern of large high pressure systems which have blocked rain reaching Sydney (and much of the east coast) for at least two months now.

The other good news is that the city's dam storage levels are currently at a comfortable 87.6 percent, thanks to solid rain in recent years and an especially wet March which set several rainfall records. So there are no water restrictions for now.

But there are plenty of parks and gardens that would like the tap turned on.