A 500km band of moisture is set to sweep across the country bringing some of the best rain for more than two years to a vast swath of the country from the Central Australia to the south east coast.
Some areas, stricken by drought, could see more rain in the next few days than they saw in the whole of last year.
Up to 100mm could fall on Canberra, with potentially 70mm drenching Sydney and solid showers in Melbourne.
“A major rain event is on our hands. On Wednesday and Thursday, a 500km-wide band of rain will stretch from Alice Springs all the way to Melbourne and Sydney,” said Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe.
“Our modelling shows the most consistent and widespread rainfall will be straight through the middle of the Murray-Darling Basin.”
It could be the best rainfall in the basin since December 2017.
The cause is ex-Tropical Cyclone Esther. It has just completed a four-day loop across Western Australia’s Kimberley region following its birth in the Gulf of Carpentaria last week. On its journey it has dumped as much as 350mm of rain in places.
The remnants of Esther, a low, is now entering the southern Northern Territory and is expected to track in a south easterly direction taking it into New South Wales and parts of Victoria as the week progresses. Queensland will begin to get soggy later in the week.
Today and tomorrow are likely to be very wet in Alice Springs with 50–100mm of rain due.
“It picks up today in northern NSW and this afternoon spreads to Sydney, Newcastle and the north coast but over the next couple of days we could start to see some really serious rain for the Murray-Darling Basin as a whole,” said Mr Sharpe.
“This system will bring 48 hours of rain for some locations before it moves off on Friday morning. This is primarily a soaking rainfall event with isolated thunderstorms with most locations (within the band) seeing extended periods of rainfall.”
Birdsville, in the far south west of Queensland close to the NSW border, could see 80-120mm of moisture today and Wednesday. The town, famous for its annual race carnival, only registered 40mm in the gauge in the whole of 2019.
While some showers might fall in Sydney later today, the wettest days are likely to be Wednesday and Thursday. Overall 20-70mm could be felt in the Harbour City. The mercury should hover between 25-28C this week.
Canberra could be wetter still with 50-100mm falling.
Dubbo and Cowra, in inland NSW, could also see a drenching with southern areas of the state – from Sydney down to the Murray – likely to be the most affected.
RAIN IN OTHER MAJOR CAPITALS
Over in Victoria, Shepparton could see anything from 10-60mm of moisture midweek. Melbourne, slightly away from the heaviest rain band, could nonetheless see up to 30mm with showers from Wednesday to Friday. Temperatures are likely to top out between 20–23C this week.
“It’s the kind of soaking rainfall that many farmers are craving,” said Mr Sharpe.
But he said that while the system will provide significant drought relief, it certainly wouldn’t lead to the drought ceasing.
“West of the Great Dividing Range rainfall deficits across the last three years are in the hundreds of millimetres. Therefore we need quite a few more rain events to roll through during autumn and winter to end the drought.”
Mr Sharpe said with the La Nina / El Nino climate driver in the Pacific in a neutral phase there was no clear indication that consistent drought-breaking rainfall was on the cards.
From Friday, Queensland is likely to start experiencing heavy rain. Between Friday and Monday, Brisbane could see as much as 50mm fall with highs of around 30C all week.
Townsville will be a warm 33C this week with some heavy showers from Friday onwards.
In Darwin there is forecast to be highs of 32-34C and afternoon storms. As much as 20mm of rain could fall today, with the weekend also set to see heavy downpours.
In Tasmania, partly cloudy for the next couple of days with temperature rising to 20C. Showers on Thursday and Friday with highs in the late teens.