Good season forecast for 2015

03 Jan, 2015 01:00 AM
The odds of a good season across Australia are high in the year following a warm eastern Pacific

FARMERS may have endured a tough year weather-wise, but there is some good news in store for 2015.

Thanks to a de facto El Niño situation where climatic indicators never exceeded El Niño thresholds but the actual weather closely reflected that of a full-blown El Niño event, the country endured record low rainfall in some areas over spring.

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  • However, leading agro-meteorologist David Stephens, Australian Export Grain Innovation Centre (AEGIC), has suggested early signs for the 2015 cropping season are much more positive.

    Dr Stephens said preliminary data from the first three weeks of December suggests high pressure ridges are strengthening in the north and south Pacific Ocean.

    This, he says, could be the start of the breakdown of the El Niño-like pattern that had such an influence on spring rain across large tracts of eastern Australia in particular.

    “The data means the AEGIC ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) Transition Index (ETI) will become positive, which in turn suggests we will see a transition out of El Niño-like conditions to neutral conditions for 2015."

    Dr Stephens said while the climate indicators in themselves were not a marker of a successful season, the odds were in growers’ favour.

    “The odds of a good season across Australia are high in the year following a warm eastern Pacific as recorded in 2014.”

    As always with long term forecasting, there is an element of doubt.

    Dr Stephens said he could not completely rule out a small chance of an El Niño developing properly in 2015 and he would continue to monitor indices in the Pacific during the next three months to get a clearer picture. He said the 2014 season would have been bleaker except for the volatility in indices.

    “The volatility in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), sub-surface heat and winds along the equator prevented the normal development of El Niño so Australia was spared a more classic, severe El Niño drought,” he said.

    “In particular, a rise in the SOI between April to June allowed rainfall systems to move through southern Australia at seeding time. This provided the soil moisture to buffer the dry finish.

    “The ideal early start to the season in southern areas allowed the benefits of new technology-encompassing varieties, nitrogen application and weed control to be maximised,” Dr Stephens said.

    These factors allowed significantly more grain to be produced across the country than in a full-blown drought year.

    Gregor Heard

    Gregor Heard

    is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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