THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: App puts current CliMate into perspective

Posted by BCG on 12th September 2019

Land managers usually have a pretty good idea of how the season is panning out. But when it comes to making important decisions it really pays to add some concrete data to the mix.

The Australian CliMate app is a tool designed to put vital climate data into the hands of decision makers.

Figure 1. The Australian CliMate app.

Feedback has shown that the app is highly valued as a quick reference tool to help with farm decision making. As one user commented, “There’s a whole heap of good data behind it which is easy to extract and use in the visual form. It saves me mucking around with spreadsheets with years and years of data.”

The app provides detailed information on current conditions and relates this information back to historical trends.

“Historic data is the best source of future odds,” says University of Southern Queensland soil scientist and a member of the development team, Associate Professor David Freebairn.

“CliMate is a probability machine. Regardless of forecasts, users can compare current conditions to the long-term averages to better understand the probability for the future.”

For instance, at Canning Downs, near Warwick in Queensland, the rainfall for the last 12 months is in the lowest percentile (Figure 2). The blue lines show how much rain has historically been achieved in the following three months giving the user a real understanding of the probabilities over this time.

Figure 2. Rainfall for the least 12 months at Canning Downs, Queensland (red line). The blue lines show the observed rainfall each year indicating future probabilities.

Putting power in the hands of users

 “The app was designed with farmers in mind, and is used by industries as diverse as animal production, grains, cotton, horticulture and sugar cane,” says A/Prof Freebairn.

“However, we have found the real power users are consultants and companies who find it an easy way to keep track of the current seasonal conditions across multiple locations. Some have more than 100 sites saved.”

The app has been used to guide a huge range of decisions, from how much urea to top-dress or how much supplementary feed to purchase, to bigger decisions such as screening locations when purchasing new land.

One agronomist user commented that the solar radiation data confirmed his belief that sunlight levels had been particularly low one season, allowing him to better understand what was happening in the paddock. As he said “It gives you confidence with the decisions you make”.

Understanding the current situation

“The app is often used when farmers, consultants and other business advisors are discussing the season. It allows everyone to have a shared understanding of the current situation,” says A/Prof Freebairn. “Recent data is the best indicator of the current conditions.”

For example, the ‘How wet’ analysis can help users get a clear understanding of changes in available soil water over time; the soil water for the last 12 months at Merredin, Western Australia is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. By comparing actual soil water (blue line) for the last 12 months at Merredin, Western Australia with the average (purple) users can quickly see the current situation.

The app is easily customised allowing users to adjust time periods, rainfall or temperature thresholds and other criteria (Figure 4). Users can also decide whether they want to compare recent conditions to the trend over the last 30 years or a longer time period, such as ‘since 1900’.

Figure 4. Drought status and cumulative rainfall for the last two years at Tarcutta in southern New South Wales.

CliMate brings together ten analyses, many of which were originally developed independently as separate apps. Each one aims to answer the user’s questions around the current season, potential yield, drought status, soil moisture and nitrate, as well as presenting past data, current trends and seasonal forecasts.

The app was developed as part of the Managing Climate Variability Program and provides national coverage on Apple and android phones and tablets, as well as online using a web browser.

It draws on data from the Bureau of Meteorology via the Queensland Government’s SILO database.

Over 8000 users have registered for the app since it was updated in July 2017.

Climate Kelpie has more information about using the application or you can access it directly at Australian CliMate app, where you also will find the links to the android and iOS apps.

Contact

David Freebairn, 0408 876 904, david.freebairn@usq.edu.au

Australian CliMate