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ARTICLES >> Environment Weather Watch

Weather Watch (December 2012)

Posted by Bestprac on Dec 04 2012

by Susan Carn (Hawker/Blinman Bestprac Group)

Last week I attended the POAMA workshop at the Melbourne Bureau of Meteorology. I had been asked to do a short presentation in which I explained how I first got interested in seasonal forecasts, and later began incorporating them into my farm decision making.

As a Climate Champion Program participant I have had access to the latest version of POAMA (Predictive ocean atmosphere model for Australia), and so I explained in my talk how useful this information is to me as a farmer, and what times of year I use different sections of it for different farm decisions.

My talk was scheduled for after lunch, but earlier in the day I was approached by Dr Peter McIntosh (CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research) to do an “off the cuff” discussion with him before lunch! (OK, I was really nervous now!) However, both talks went off well as the Bureau staff and other attendees, such as Dept. Primary Industries staff, seemed really pleased and grateful at how important and useful their research is to farmers.

Part of the reason for this workshop was to explore faults and suggest improvements needed. I think I was able to get across the importance and usefulness, to farmers, of having rainfall predictions next to skill sets. By this I mean if the model suggests good rainfall for my area, in April for example, I want to have a map or something next to it with how skillful that prediction has been, in my area for that month, in the past. Then if it is a month of low skill I won’t get too excited!

Melissa Rebeck from SARDI made a good point about this, in that if a forecast does not have high skill then maybe don’t even include it!

It was great to “network” with these people who I hold in such high esteem, and I feel like I have done my bit for getting them to hold farmers in high esteem, if they didn’t before.

There were an awful lot of presentations over the one and a half day conference, so here are some brief notes of what I thought were the highlights.

  • A public version of POAMA 2 should be online by early 2013. 
  • POAMA 3 is being worked on at present to be ready by 2015. This version will have a 150km resolution, which, to us, will mean more localised seasonal forecasts. (POAMA 2 is 250km)
  • Australia’s seasonal climate is predictable, daily weather is harder!
  • Weather drivers, such as the MJO (Maddon Julian Oscillation) and SAM (Southern Annular Mode) don’t really help with climate predictions, but do affect the weather (This was very interesting to me as I had thought this was the case!)
  • POAMA still needs to improve as some other models like the one from Japan use much bigger computers. This is where ongoing government funding for computers and man-power is so important.
  • However, POAMA 2 has proven to have good skill in things such as extreme rain events.
  • Also, maximum temperature forecasts are very reliable at the moment.
  • Research is being done on predicting heat extremes on a multi-week timescale.
  • At the moment the impact of Rossby Waves (too complicated for me, but they involve wind directions and speeds) are not included in POAMA, but if this is remedied it will improve forecasts for south-east Australia.
  • There were speakers on how POAMA can help Pacific Islands cope with sea level changes and coral bleaching.
  • POAMA has a seasonal prediction portal for the Pacific Island nations which will help with drought prediction, agriculture, hydro-electricity, coastal infrastructure, and fisheries.
  • BOM is working on improving Cyclone prediction: intensity, how many days they’ll last, shorter lead time, more accurate.
  • Darren Ray from Adelaide BOM had some great suggestions on how to improve POAMA 2 specifically for farmers such as: predicting the growing season break, follow-up rains, Sept/Oct finish and Nov/Dec harvest rain, heat extremes and frost in Oct/Nov, lightening maps, soil moisture, heat wave events.
  • Specific agricultural products need forecasts at specific times: for example, cherry growers need to know if there will be Nov/Dec rain; grape growers need a heads up for summer rain; vegetable growers need correct temperature forecasts.
  • Fisheries need seasonal forecasting to help with quotas, water temperature, and rainfall. For example, Tasmanian salmon: water temperature impacts on growth; Queensland prawns: sensitive to extreme hot and cold temperatures, rainfall can affect the salinity in ponds, can only stock when it’s warm so need regional forecasts. 
  • NT mango crops need seasonal forecasts: pollination decisions – natural of artificial, need to know the beginning and end of the dry season for picking and marketing.
  • Northern cattle growers need October dry forecast warnings.
  • Fire departments need early forecasts of the start and finish to fire season to help with funding and planning like how many aircraft needed, for example.
  • The existing statistical seasonal forecast model will be replaced by the dynamical model.It will still be available, but the new model is much better, I think, as it considers so many things and not just statistics.

So that’s just a sample of what I learned at this great workshop! Here is the POAMA 2 outlook for Dec/Jan/Feb, showing the probability percentage of getting above median rainfall. 

Probability Above Median for Rainfall Map
 
I’m in a pale green area which means there’s just over 60% chance of getting 37mm, however, we’ve already had 20mm on the 1st December! Interesting!

That’s all from me for this year. My Christmas wish to you all is that everyone gets the right amount of rain they need at the right time!

Last changed: Dec 05 2012

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