'Worst drought in living memory': Australia's big dry

Nature and Environment

Desolation

An old dead tree lies like a skeleton on the scorched earth in a property located to the west of Tamworth, a rural (and country music) center in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Although still winter, 100 percent of New South Wales is now in drought, with the state of Queensland to the north also dry. The drought is expected to continue for months, and bushfire season has started early.

Nature and Environment

Mars?

In what could be a scene from the red planet, a kangaroo's shadow is captured as the animal drinks from a water tank on a barren farm to the west of Gunnedah, a town in northwest New South Wales. Since the beginning of June 2018, the drought has continued unabated. "I have been here all my life, and this drought is feeling like it will be around a while," property owner Ash Whitney told Reuters.

Nature and Environment

Fight for survival

Sheep have long been the backbone of the Australian agricultural sector, grazing the nation's vast open plains and providing meat and wool for international markets. But now farmers suffering from drought are having to shoot their sheep for lack of pasture. The federal government's drought relief package announced in August 2018 will not make up for stock losses.

Nature and Environment

Weather patterns

A farmer ploughing arid land near Gunnedah inadvertently creates vast, eerily beautiful symmetrical patterns that ultimately signal crop failure. Greg Stones is a farmer who grows grains and runs livestock in the same area. "This would be the first time in two generations, back to the 1930s, that we haven't got a crop up in the autumn or winter time," he told AFP.

Nature and Environment

Oases

"The land is too dry ... We've put cattle on the highway [near the farm] for the first time in my life [so] they get a bit of rough grass," Greg Stones continued. This image from the far western town of Walgett in New South Wales shows a lone farmer attending to his water trough and tanks on his desolate, drought-stricken property in July 2018.

Nature and Environment

Grain train

Sheep eat grain dropped on a desert-scape that was once once fertile grazing land on the outskirts of Tamworth in central New South Wales. But the extra feed is causing financial ruin. "This drought is longer and more widespread than any drought we've seen in over 50 years, so that's why we've got to provide additional support," said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull upon announcing an aid package.

Nature and Environment

'Too late'

A farmer feeds his cattle branches cut from a tree on his property located west of Gunnedah in June 2018. Though aid has since been offered to these farmers, "It was probably a little bit late coming for some people. They didn't act fast enough," another nearby farmer, Col Barton, told AFP. The only hope now is rain.

Nature and Environment

Cracked earth

Drought is a naturally occurring phenomenon across the highly arid Australian continent. This close-up view of the dried-out Wellshot Creek that runs through a cattle station in Longreach in the state of Queensland captured a 2014 drought that was the most widespread on record for the state. Around 80 percent of the region was affected.

Nature and Environment

Millennium Drought

A lone cow sits in a parched paddock in northwest New South Wales in October 2006 during the longest widespread drought in history. Then, farmers also had to hand-feed stock. This big dry was worse and more widespread than ever before, posing a massive economic challenge to the Earth's driest inhabited continent and a debate about whether farmers should even run livestock on such marginal land.

As sheep and cattle roam barren, broken land in a futile search for pasture amidst skeletal trees and cracked earth, these graphic yet artful images of New South Wales illustrate the desolation of drought.