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ARTICLES >> Environment Weather Watch

Weather Watch (November 2012)

Posted by Bestprac on Oct 30 2012

by Susan Carn (Hawker/Blinman Bestprac Group)

Australia has the most variable climate of all agricultural producing countries; but last month that variation was ridiculous! On the 11th October we had snow around the Quorn district and the highest the temperature got that day was 14 degrees. Just 4 days later the temperature reached 35!

Mammatus clouds after the 14 degree day in the Quorn districtThe day after that, the sky was ominous with, what I think were, Mammatus clouds (see photo) with virga, which is when precipitation evaporates somewhere on the journey from clouds toward earth. Then, on the night of the 19th, we had violent thunderstorms and lightning started several fires.

Spring gives rise to very changeable weather over south eastern Australia, however, senior forecaster at the Adelaide Bureau of Meteorology, Tom Boeck, confirmed on ABC radio the rarity of the snowy weather conditions. "In springtime we do get some quite significant shifts in the weather, in terms of temperature, but I must admit it’s quite unusual to be getting a snow event in October,” he said.

Ben and I can remember a cold snap, in October 1995, when were trucking some cattle out of a paddock and it was sleeting on us. Hard to forget really!

So will there be more surprises like that in November? That’s a bit hard for anyone to call, but the BOM experimental forecast POAMA (Predictive ocean atmosphere model for Australia) predicts November to be dryer than average for most of Australia, and warmer than average. See map.
  Map of Maximum Temperature Anomaly

POAMA is a dynamical computer model which the Bureau says will make a big difference to the accuracy of long-range forecasts. According to Dr Peter McIntosh, from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, models such as POAMA will be able to represent all the complex connections researchers are now making between the Pacific and Indian oceans and provide the improved seasonal outlooks that agriculture needs.

At the end of November I will be attending a POAMA workshop in Melbourne. Dr McIntosh will be speaking as well as a “who’s who” of the weather world! I have been invited along as a Climate Champion Program participant, and have been asked to give a presentation on how POAMA and other forecasts can help farmers.

I will be focusing on how important it is for farmers to get seasonal forecasts so that we can make informed decisions. Farming is an expensive business and we need to know, well in advance, any information regarding impending drought or wet seasons.

Earlier this year the cry went out about an impending El Nino, but it just didn’t quite happen! This retreat from El Nino thresholds over the past several weeks is considered highly unusual. The climate models surveyed by the Bureau of Meteorology suggest sea surface temperatures, in the tropical Pacific Ocean, are likely to be warmer than average, but stay within the neutral range for the rest of 2012 and early 2013.

This year has seen a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event, which partly explains the unusually dry conditions experienced over much of Australia in recent months. In my area, this certainly affected the crops and the result is we will only get our seed back. Still, I’m glad that, earlier in the year, I was watching the long range forecasts, with some trepidation, so we only sowed half of what we normally would. Our rams are enjoying the failed barley crop anyway!

So our climate sure can throw some curved balls at us, but with ongoing science and research and improvements to forecasting, I’m confident agriculture in Australia will continue and even improve.

Last changed: Nov 01 2012



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