THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Meet the Expert – Alister Hawksford, BoM

Posted by BCG on 3rd August 2018

What does your job involve?

I coordinate the Bureau‘s efforts to deliver value to the beef, sheep and agricultural insurance industries. I work closely with industry members from all along the value chain to identify opportunities to generate new value, then leverage the capabilities of the Bureau and partners to deliver.

What climate drivers do red meat producers need to understand?

Climate drivers can provide climatologists interesting context to the forecast, but since the advent of skilful dynamical forecast models (better supercomputer brains), producers don’t necessarily need to understand any of the drivers.

The forecasts now do all the work for you. For example, in the past when a Victorian producer needed to know how much rainfall they were going to receive, they would need to check the ENSO phase (El Nino, La Nina or neutral), the IOD phase, the SAM phase, and possibly the IPO phase. They then would need to know how each of these phases interact with each other, calculate the compounding probabilities of each driver’s impact on rainfall under those phases, then (if they didn’t have a headache by this point) they would have an answer but no idea whether there was a mistake in the calculations.

These days, the forecast models do all of that for us, tell us how much rainfall to expect and how confident we should be about the answer – very convenient!

What decisions do red meat producers make where seasonal climate forecasts can be helpful?

  • Whether to sell, hold or buy stock.
  • Whether to buy extra feed.
  • Whether to increase water and shade access.
  • Whether to delay joining dates.
  • Whether to increase wind shelter in paddocks.

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

Products will be tailored specifically to the decisions made by producers and others along the value chain.

Forecasts will extend further out in time, allowing decisions to be made this year in preparation for alternate conditions next year (e.g. sowing drought resilient pasture species when conditions are good, to be prepared for upcoming dry conditions).

Weekly and fortnightly forecasts for the next month will help to tie together seasonal forecasts and 7-day forecasts.

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

For anything even remotely related to weather, climate, or water, contact Agriculture@bom.gov.au.