THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Meet the Expert – Dale Grey, Agriculture Victoria

Posted by BCG on 1st June 2018

  1. What does your job involve?

I provide advice to farmers and agribusiness on agronomic and climatic issues and I also provide comment to state government and the media on seasonal conditions and climate.

I produce the Fast Break climate newsletter once a month – it summarises the climate predictions of some of the world’s biggest supercomputers down to a single A4 page, then I summarise a half hour climate update into under four minutes each month on the Very Fast Break Youtube clips.

I also do some work on grains industry biosecurity and assist in emergency recovery.

  1. What are the most important climate drivers that a Victorian or South Australian farmer needs to understand?

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) rules the roost, but in recent years the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) seems to be having a major influence as well. Expect something major to happen when these two drivers get together.

But, it’s important to stick to predictions in winter and spring, they have historically been the most accurate.

Autumn predictions have always and may always be the poorest time for making predictions of the coming season.

  1. What are some of the decisions that Victorian and South Australian farmers make where they should be referring to seasonal climate forecasts?

It’s hard to recommend planting decisions in autumn based on forecasts at that time. In season decisions are a better bet.

For croppers this would be about whether or not topdressed nitrogen would be money well spent.

Forecasts may also give a guide as to how much fun you will have at hay making and harvest time.

For graziers, stocking rates, pasture top dressing, hay making, turning off and selling times, stock containment, supplementary feed stocks and the security of water supplies are possible in season decisions at a time the models have skill.

  1. What’s been the biggest change that you’ve seen in seasonal climate forecasting over your career?

I started out thinking ENSO had no effect on Victoria, only to discover that it has a massive effect in some years.

I think the major change has been moving from the old statistical system that sat on a 50% chance of above median rainfall most times for Victoria, to the POAMA model and soon to be ACCESS model, which will provide much more useful information for our state.

  1. Where do you see seasonal climate forecasting heading in the future?

Science is discovering new climate drivers and incorporating those into models will make them more accurate over time.

I am really excited about the move to greater resolution of the Australian model, so that features such as the Great Dividing Range and Tasmania can now be factored in. 

  1. How can a farmer contact you and what questions can you help them answer?

Happy to field questions on what the climate drivers are up to, helping develop an understanding of what are pretty complex ideas.

I can also talk about climate change, particularly on the effects it is having on the climate drivers and I’m happy to assist with historic climate data analysis.