Will the rains arrive early? North Australian farmers can now find out

Farmers in the Top End can now find out whether the first rainfalls of the wet season are likely to arrive earlier than usual, with the introduction of the Bureau of Meteorology’s new northern rainfall onset outlook.

The northern rainfall outset outlook adds to the Bureau’s regular climate outlooks.

The new service is the result of research that began in 2010, co-funded by Managing Climate Variability rural research partners and the Bureau.

The ‘buildup months’ after the dry season, from September onwards, are critical for farm management. The northern rainfall onset is understood as the first ‘useful’ rains of the season for agriculture.

Northern rainfall onset [not the monsoon onset] occurs when enough rain has fallen to stimulate plant growth. It’s the date after 1 September when a location has received at least 50 mm of total rainfall.

“As we come out of the dry season, that 50 mm is essential for grass to grow. That transitional time is very important in places that have 6 months of ‘dry’,” explains senior climate liaison officer Joel Lisonbee.

“We’re very pleased to see the service launched, as one of our key objectives is to deliver tools and services to farmers so they can better manage climate. It’s a great outcome,” says Simon Winter, science manager for Managing Climate Variability.

“Producers can now plan their stocking rates and operations with more confidence.”

The service is also another example of agricultural investments providing benefits to other sectors such as construction, oil and gas, mining, transport, disaster planning and electricity.

The Bureau is excited by the results it has achieved by working with people who use their forecasts.

Mr Lisonbee says, “Years ago, we asked for a wishlist from Northern Territory people in primary industries. They wanted a forecast of when rain would start during the wet season. We talked to researchers, and got funding to look at how our seasonal prediction model could help.”

The Bureau will release northern rainfall onset outlook information in late June, July and August each year.

[Northern rainfall onset generally begins in October for coastal Queensland and the western Top End regions. Over the next weeks, the rainfall onset occurs further south and inland, and is usually complete for southern inland regions of the Northern Territory and north-western Western Australia by mid-January.

It is also different from the monsoon onset, which is when significant, widespread rainfall and changes in mean wind direction occur.]


Simon Winter, Science Manager, Managing Climate Variability, simon@swinter.com.au

Joel Lisonbee, Senior Climate Liaison Officer, Bureau of Meteorology, 03 9669 4057, media@bom.gov.au

This entry was posted in News.

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