Graziers become local weather forecasters

March 22, 2017

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You can predict your own weather. That’s the message farmers in the Maranoa received at two recent workshops about how to best use the various weather and climate forecasting tools available.

Against a backdrop of prevailing drought conditions, QMDC organised climatologist University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Professor Roger Stone (pictured) to talk climate forecasting at a property level to more than 20 graziers in Mitchell and Roma.

QMDC’s Climate Change Officer Rhonda Toms-Morgan said aim was to give Maranoa graziers and croppers skills to forecast their own weather and to manage variable rainfall and temperatures.

“There was a call from landholders to get a better handle on how to make timely property management decisions based on weather forecasts,” Mrs Toms-Morgan said.

“Despite the drought, these are the first climate workshops to be held in the Maranoa region in several years, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive with people asking for follow ups so they can apply their new climate knowledge.

“Landholders got to do their own forecasts and talk with people in the know about how to better understand and apply this knowledge, and stop gambling on the weather to identify opportunities for their businesses.”

Dr Stone, who is USQ Director for the International Centre for Applied Climate Sciences and Professor of Climatology and Water Science, spoke about the extent of climate variability in Australia, the role of sea surface temperatures and features around drivers such as the SOI, ENSO and European climate models.

“Some of the forecasting tools are more reliable at different times of the year depending on where you are,” Mrs Toms Morgan said.

“Farmers need to make informed decisions on forecasts they see in the media, to determine the reliability for their part of the world, and to estimate the differences in median rainfall.”

“Professor Stone turned farmers into climatologists within three to four hours, giving them seasonal weather maps so they could produce their own forecasts by the end of the day,” she said.

In addition, EcoRich grazing consultant Col Paton spoke to attendees about how to use the weather forecasting tools for grazing and fire management.

“Col helped graziers link the information to an annual grazing calendar to help inform critical decision points for forage budgeting and long-term carrying capacity,” she said.

“The workshops should help graziers considerably to prepare for drought as they help to reduce risks for cropping in terms of timing for planting or harvest – and for grazing in terms of options for early weaning or destocking.”

QMDC is looking to run more workshops with anyone interested urged to contact QMDC Climate Change Officer Rhonda Toms-Morgan on mobile 0408 871 978. 

“In terms of climate variability there is a lack of access among landholders to local expertise to reduce the risk of losses, Ms Toms-Morgan said.

The seasonal climate forecasting workshops were supported by QMDC, Mitchell Landcare and USQ through funding from the Queensland Government’s Drought Resilience Project.

Released by QMDC Regional Communication Officer Donna Hurley, ph 0427 749 436

 

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