The drought that affected South Eastern Australia from 1997 to 2009 was the worst since European settlers arrived in the late 18th century, and so severe that it earned the nickname, “Big Dry.”
By Sepember 2010, high temperatures and continuing lack of rain left the capital city of Canberra parched while severe dust storms plagued parts of New South Wales – yet within two years the landscape was transformed.
The natural-color images above, acquired by NASA’s Landsat 5 in September 2008 and October 2010, show the dramatic difference that rainfall can make: after 4 consecutive months of above-average precipitation and cooler temperatures, vegetation sprang to life.
The return of vegetation provided a welcome food source for kangaroos, many of whom had been crossing Canberra’s busy roadways to feed on well-watered grass.
Canberra was just one of many communities affected by the drought. A study published in 2012 argued that the Big Dry was not a regional phenomenon, but a continental one. The drought, the researchers found, reduced rainfall, water storage, and vegetation in a broad swath across Australia, from northwest to southeast.
By early 2012, residents of southeastern Australia were contending with a different natural hazard: floods.