Farmer Peter
Farmer Peter "PJ" Cookson's Queensland property has been in drought for the past six years and cannot sustain his livestock. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

No drought reprieve with hot, dry spring ahead

AUSTRALIA'S weather forecasters have released a grim climate outlook for spring, with warmer and drier than average conditions predicted to continue across NSW.

The Bureau of Meteorology's 2018 Spring Outlook will offer no relief to our drought-stricken farmers, with the country having faced its 12th driest winter on record. It followed a dry autumn, and before that a dry summer.

Drought conditions across eastern Australia are likely to intensify, according to the bureau, with statewide temps expected to be warmer than usual.

"A drier and warmer than average spring would likely mean intensification of the existing drought conditions across parts of eastern Australia and an increase in bushfire potential," the BoM says in its outlook, released Thursday.

"Much of eastern and southern mainland Australia has experienced a very dry winter and start to the year, so an outlook with increased chances of drier conditions indicates areas currently experiencing drought are less likely to see significant respite in the coming three months."

Andrew Watkins, manager of long-range forecasts at the BoM, told The Guardian that parts of Australia had received less than half of their average rainfall in winter. He said spring was likely to bring similar conditions for large parts of the country, as well as a chance of early heatwaves.

"We might expect to see summer start a little early this year in many places, a chance of an early heatwave is certainly on the cards for southern and south-eastern parts of Australia," Mr Watkins said.

"Unfortunately no area is looking at good odds of above average rainfall, particularly in south-eastern Australia."

Last month, 100 per cent of NSW was declared to be in drought after a winter that was among the state's top five driest.

Farmers across the country are struggling to feed their animals in the extremely dry conditions, with many fearing the loss of important cattle blood lines, while others have been force to feed sheep onions, kill them, or simply watch them die.

"We might have to wait till as late as autumn in 2019 to start seeing some recovery rains in the drought areas," Mr Watkins predicted.

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