Australian officials recently announced that the state of Queensland is in the midst of the most widespread drought on written record, with over 80% of the territory desperate for water. While drought is common in the region, it’s never before been so widespread, and it’s unusual for large portions of the coast to be affected. As the nation’s second-largest state, this is definite cause for alarm. Queensland covers an enormous amount of ground, taking up 1.7 million square kilometers (or 656,000 square miles), and most of that area has received little to no precipitation during the normal rainy season.

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Photo © bertknot

This drought is even more unusual because it comes close on the heels of devastating floods in 2010 and 2011, which wiped out some of the prime regions for sugar cane farming. Many farmers who were only just beginning to recover from the floods now find themselves unable to grow crops or maintain their livestock. In response to their plight, Prime Minister Tony Abbot revealed a $320 million dollar assistance package last month, meant to help farmers continue to finance their operations and provide mental health support.

To make matters even worse, 2013 was the hottest year on record for the nation, bringing with it an unprecedented heatwave and destructive bushfires — an even greater danger with so much of the country plunged into drought. While UN Climate Chief Christina Figueres has stated that it’s impossible to place the blame for any one extreme weather event on climate change, the drought is part of a “pattern of abnormality that is becoming the norm.” In a recent interview with the Guardian, she cautioned that this sort of strange weather can only be expected to increase in frequency and severity as the planet continues to warm.


Lead photo © Lauri Väin