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3. Services

The principal information base for describing the climate of Australia, its variability and its long-term trends is provided by the Bureau of Meteorology which has national responsibility for meteorological (including climate) monitoring (Anon 1997). It operates the official national climate observing infrastructure and the National Climate Centre (NCC), the latter being the custodian of Australia's historical climate record. The NCC has responsibility for collecting and maintaining data relevant to Australia' climatological data archive, and for establishing appropriate quality control, data storage and access systems. The historical records held by the Bureau provide an essential basis for the study of the climate of Australia and the globe, and for assessing climate variability and climate change in the region. There are approximately 65 gigabytes of climatological data stored in the Australian Data Archive for Meteorology (ADAM), the on-line archive. On-line access to archive data is possible through SILO (Special Information for Land Owners; http://www.bom.gov.au/silo), a joint initiative of the Bureau of Meteorology, the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, developed with funding from LWRRDC and RIRDC. This provides real and historical rainfall, temperature, humidity and drought analyses, along with agricultural information. Both public interest information, and tailored information available via subscription, may be accessed from this site.

A number of other organisations, including the National Tidal Facility and a number of State agricultural, forestry and water resource agencies, also operate observations networks which make an important contribution to the national climate record. The Bureau promotes the application of climate data and provides data to users both through advertised data services, such as publications and polling fax systems, on-line through the World Wide Web at http://www.bom.gov.au/ and http://www.bom.gov.au/silo, and on request. Climate data are also available through the Long Paddock site of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources http://www.dnr.qld.gov.au/longpdk.

Monthly rainfall data for about 4,500 locations around Australia are available with the Australian Rainman package, distributed by QDPI and BoM. Rainfall probabilities may be calculated from recent values of the Southern Oscillation Index or Sea Surface Temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Historical daily climate data may be analysed using MetAccess software, developed by the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry and distributed through Horizon software.

Short-term weather and longer-term climate forecasts are made available through the media, including newspapers, radio, television and the World Wide Web. The former include the daily and 3-5 day rainfall and temperature forecasts that are released every few hours, along with specialist forecasts concerning inclement weather that threatens horticultural and agricultural crops, and the survival of livestock (especially new-born lambs and calves and shorn sheep). This includes cold, wet and windy weather, frost occurrences, or warm humid conditions that favour fungal spores which could infect plants or livestock.

Promotion of climate data applications at field days, agricultural shows, and through the media and farmers' groups and organisations, is actively undertaken by the Bureau of Meteorology and State agricultural and primary industry agencies. One of the most popular climate educational kits has been the video and work manual Farming a Sunburnt Country. The kit is designed to build an awareness of the value of using historical weather records, decision support systems and climate prediction tools in managing on-farm decisions, such as crop planting and stock numbers.

State agricultural agencies continue to promote the use of climate information through workshops conducted under the Property Management Planning Program, particularly in Queensland and New South Wales. These are aimed at increasing the ability of farmers to manage climatic opportunities and risks, and thus be more self-reliant despite the high variability of the climate and product prices. This is consistent with the aims of the National Drought Policy, which highlights the need for farmers to be able to plan for and manage these risks and the physical and financial components of their farming businesses.

The Queensland Centre for Climate Applications also provides a climate forecasting and advisory service to farmers through its climatologist, Dr Roger Stone, based at Toowoomba. Climate information is available via a telephone answering service (SOI Phone Hotline: (07) 3896 9602), by infofax (SOI Fax Hotline: 1902 935 300; Farmfax (07) 3222 2996) and via The Long Paddock site on the World Wide Web, http://www.dnr.qld.gov.au/longpdk

New South Wales Agriculture is also establishing a climate information service for farmers (Harpal Mavi, pers. comm.). Only the Regional Reviews are accessible on the web site at this stage at http://www.agric.nsw.gov.au/

Agriculture Western Australia makes near-real-time predictions of crop yields for the major producing shires (counties in South Australia) across the Australian wheatbelt. These are made available to the public on about the second Friday of each month throughout the growing season (July - December). These may be accessed on the web at http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/progserv/natural/climate/clig/Cig. These maps are also published in the Profarmer magazine distributed by the Kondinin Group and will appear in the District Reports section of Australian Grain. A colour map of plant available soil moisture around sowing time (31 May) across Western Australia is also produced in early June and then placed on the web.

3.1 Agricultural forecasts, warnings and services (Bureau of Meteorology)

Summary weather forecasts are issued four times a day for each State and Territory for about the next 24 hours. Warnings of forecast hazardous weather, including tropical cyclones, conditions favourable for the generation and rapid spread of bushfires; gales (wind speed greater than 63 km/h), severe thunderstorms (including damaging wind gusts, large hail, very heavy rain or tornadoes), and floods are also provided. This information is disseminated via the media, including radio, television and newspapers, and via the internet ( http://www.bom.gov.au/ ), dial-up telephone services (Weathercall; phone: 0055 33551), and Infofax - a Telstra-polled fax information service providing weather reports and forecasts, weather charts and satellite images (phone: 019 725 001). A range of hardcopy and on-line subscription services are also available, more information being available from Bureau offices. In addition, there are specific agricultural forecasts, warnings and forecasts available in each State and Territory:

3.1.1 Western Australia

Warnings for sheep farmers:

  • a warning of cold, wet and windy conditions when newly shorn sheep or newly born lambs will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued year round.

Frost risk forecasts

  • a frost indicator (e.g. scattered, widespread);
  • issued year round for the Geraldton area;
  • issued from April-May to the end of the year for the Southwest district.

Contact: Regional Director, Western Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, P.O. Box 1370, West Perth, WA 6872. Ph: (08) 9263 2222

3.1.2 South Australia

Warnings for sheep farmers:

  • a warning of cold, wet and windy conditions when newly shorn sheep or newly born lambs will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued year round.

Frost risk forecasts

  • for Riverland, Murray Bridge, Salisbury, Two Wells, Virginia and the Barossa Valley;
  • issued from mid-May to mid-November.

Downy Mildew service

  • operates on an ad hoc basis at the appropriate time, through consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Meteorology;
  • seeks to inform viticulturalists whether rain and humidity over a three- to four-day period are critical to the development of infection.

Forecasts for fruit drying

  • specific advice for fruit growers is broadcast over the Country Hour program of the ABC;
  • operates during the summer months.

Warnings for barley growers

  • warnings of prolonged periods of hot, dry, strong winds for the Yorke and Eyre Peninsulas;
  • issued during November and December.

Contact: Regional Director, South Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 421, Norwood, SA 5067. Ph: (08) 8366 2600

3.1.3 Victoria

Warnings for farmers and graziers:

  • a warning of unseasonable wet and windy conditions when vulnerable stock will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued September to April inclusive.

Frost risk forecasts

  • overnight minimum air temperatures of minus 2C or lower over a significant areas are expected (June to mid-August);
  • overnight minimum air temperatures of 0C or lower over a significant area expected (remainder of the year).

Warnings of weather conducive to the spread of plant disease are issued to fruit growers

  • Brown Rot warnings (January to March)

Forecasts for fruit drying

  • specific forecasts and advices for the Sunraysia district for the fruit drying period;
  • recorded information service which includes up-to-date radar information;
  • issued February to mid-April.

Contact: Regional Director, Victoria, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1636M, Melbourne, Vic. 3001. Ph: (03) 9669 4000

3.1.4 Tasmania

Warnings for sheep farmers:

  • a warning of cold, wet and windy conditions when newly born lambs and newly shorn sheep will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued throughout the year.

Evaporation data for irrigation and water loss applications:

  • Class A pan evaporation data for eight locations are published daily in the three main newspapers, weekly in the Tasmanian Country, and broadcast daily.

Contact: Regional Director, Tasmania, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 727G, Hobart, Tas 7001. Ph: (03) 6221 2000

3.1.5 New South Wales

Warnings for sheep farmers:

  • a warning of cold, wet and windy conditions when newly born lambs and newly shorn sheep will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued year round.

Forecasts for cane firing

  • wind forecasts are prepared daily for the Tweed, Richmond and Clarence Valleys;
  • issued June to December inclusive.

Contact: Regional Director, New South Wales, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO A737, Sydney South, NSW 2000. Ph: (02) 9296 1555

3.1.6 Queensland

Forecasts for cane firing

  • wind forecasts are provided for cane-firing for the following areas: Babinda, Ayr, Cairns-Mossman, Mackay-Proserpine, Bundaberg-Childers, Moreton;
  • issued mid-June to December.

Warnings for sheep farmers:

  • a warning of cold, wet and windy conditions when newly born lambs or newly shorn sheep will be at risk;
  • based on results from field experiments relating chill factor to wind speed, rainfall and temperature values;
  • issued as necessary.

Contact: Regional Director, Queensland, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 413, Brisbane, Qld 4001. Ph: (07) 3239 8700

3.1.7 Northern Territory

Frost risk forecasts

  • a frost risk is appended to the Alice Springs forecast issued from May to September inclusive.

Contact: Regional Director, Northern Territory, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 735, Darwin, NT 0801. Ph: (08) 8920 3800

3.1.8 National Climate Centre

Seasonal Climate Outlook

The Seasonal Climate Outlook gives seasonal (three-month) rainfall risk assessments, outlining the probability of the rainfall total for the subsequent three months being in the lowest one-third of historical falls, the middle one-third, or the upper one-third. The Seasonal Climate Outlook (SCO) is available in two forms:

a. a two-page media release, usually issued in the second week of the month, faxed to media and other organisations, available on WeatherByFax (1902 935 251, 60c per minute) and on the web at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/rain_ahead.shtml.

b. a 22-page booklet, available in printed form and in electronic form (PDF format) via the web at http://www.bom.gov.au/silo/products/SClimate.html. The SCO contains the rainfall risk assessment for Australia, in map form, tabular form for the Bureau of Meteorology rainfall districts and towns around the country, official Troup SOI value for the most recent month, SOI analogues and information concerning rainfall outcomes for the analogue years, stratified climatological rainfall probabilities based on recent values of the SOI, southern and northern wet season reports, recent rainfall descriptions and maps, recent sea surface temperature anomalies, and a six-month NINO3 prediction. Current cost is $130 per year for print form or electronic form, $200 per year for both forms.

Contact: Mr. Grant Beard, Climate Analysis Section, National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289K, Melbourne VIC 3001, Ph: (03) 9669 4527, Fax: (03) 9669 4678.

Climate Monitoring Bulletin

Technical publication reporting monthly on the recent climate of Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. Contains recent climate indices, global analyses and anomalies of atmospheric and oceanic variables, descriptions and maps of recent Australian rainfall and temperature patterns, ozone reports, and reports from the National Tidal Facility. Available by subscription, and published by the National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology.

Contact: Mr. Grant Beard, Climate Analysis Section, National Climate Centre, Bureau of Meteorology, GPO Box 1289K, Melbourne VIC 3001, Ph: (03) 9669 4527; Fax: (03) 9669 4678.

Rainfall reports

a. 1 and 3 month rainfall percentiles and isohyet analyses for Australia. This is available on WeatherByFax (1902 935 262, 5 pages, 60c per minute), or on the web at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/rainfall_1month.shtml, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/rainfall_3month.shtml, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainmaps/montha.shtml, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainmaps/montha3a.shtml, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainmaps/monthda.shtml, http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainmaps/monthd3a.shtml.

This information is also contained in the Seasonal Climate Outlook booklet (see above). Rainfall totals for selected sites around Australia are also included in the WeatherByFax version.

b. weekly rainfall totals, WeatherByFax (1902 935 261, 4 pages, 60c per minute). This contains a description of recent rainfall, map, and totals for selected totals around Australia

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