CSIRO tackles Australian drought issues with data visualisation

CSIRO's new online tool brings together desperate information to help government deliver support to drought-affected areas that need it most.

A team at CSIRO has created a national drought map that brings together information on weather conditions, agricultural industries, state government drought declared areas and government drought support.

The map is an online tool with information that includes rainfall patterns, soil moisture, government assistance available, town size by population, numbers of farm businesses, agricultural types and employment by industries.

CSIRO explained that with the long stretch of dry weather putting pressure on farmers and communities across the country, the map can help determine when and where help is needed.

Climate and weather experts across the globe are predicting that droughts are going to become longer and more severe in some parts of the country, CSIRO indicated.

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Part of addressing this challenge involves gathering and interpreting disparate pieces of data to provide a comprehensive picture of conditions and drought response across Australia.

The CSIRO team, from Data61, worked with the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce to apply its Terria interface to create a national drought map.

Launched on February 1 by minister for agriculture and water resources, David Littleproud, the map will allow governments and other stakeholders to gain deeper insights into current drought conditions to determine where more support is needed.

It also facilities coordination of response and provides information on the spread of drought using the latest meteorological information.

The value of the national drought map is the multiple ways data can be used to tell a story of what’s happening in a local area, which will assist with better decision-making.

For example, understanding the climatic, economic and social conditions in a regional community and quickly identifying the services they can access.

With this knowledge, governments can direct information sessions and services, such as the Department of Human Services’ Mobile Service Centres, where they are most needed.