Giving farmers more timely weather and climate forecasts

Seven days. Three months. We can now get accurate rainfall and temperature forecasts for these periods, but what if a farmer had access to quality outlooks that sat between the two—multi-week forecasts?

Giving farmers more timely weather and climate forecasts
Dr Andrew Watkins forecasts for farmers. Credit: Bureau of Meteorology

Multi-week forecasts would allow farmers to make better harvesting and sowing decisions before or after drought or flood events.

Australia’s Managing Climate Variability research and development program is working with the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO scientists to fill this gap.

Progress made in the past two years has been so significant that scientists here and abroad have dubbed the models so far developed as “future prediction tools.”

The researchers are working to improve the physics of Australia’s dynamical modelling system known as the Predictive Ocean Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA), to make accurate multi-week forecasts a reality. For farmers and other decision-makers world-wide, this will mean more timely access to climate information.

Forecasting for periods between days and months is difficult because they sit between weather and climate. Seven-day forecasts are built from good local weather observations, while three-month seasonal outlooks are driven by larger scale climate elements such as the temperatures of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

POAMA’s most significant achievement to date has been improved forecasting of El Niño and La Niña events, says Dr Andrew Watkins from the Bureau. “The POAMA model started tipping a strong La Niña as early as autumn, which traditionally is the hardest period for models to forecast. It also correctly forecast the 2009–10 El Niño well before it arrived in the tropical Pacific.”

This helped farmers to make better decisions during the recent droughts in the west and floods in the east of Australia.

Photo: Dr Andrew Watkins forecasts for farmers
Credit: Bureau of Meteorology

Managing Climate Variability R&D Program, Andrew Watkins,,