THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Extreme event early-warning forecasts tested under local spotlight

Posted by BCG on 8th November 2019

Dealing with climate extremes is one of the biggest challenges faced by primary producers. To tackle this challenge the Bureau of Meteorology and its research partners are testing a range of new climate forecasting products with the aim of improving preparedness as part of the Forewarned is Forearmed (FWFA) project.

A boost in the number of test locations analysed will help user groups evaluate the potential of new extreme event early-warning forecasts for farmers.

Around 140 new sites have been added to the evaluation program (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The Forewarned is Forearmed project has added about 140 new locations to its program evaluating potential new forecasting tools. This map shows the full set of almost 560 test stations. Note, stations relevant to multiple industries are only shown once. Source: Bureau of Meteorology.

“If we can help producers to understand the likelihood and potential extent of extreme weather events beyond the 7-day weather forecast, that can put them in a better position to prepare, hopefully limiting the impact on-farm,” says the Bureau’s Dr Debbie Hudson.

The project is focusing on three key areas: extremes of heat, cold and rainfall.

Currently, Bureau multi-week and seasonal outlooks only provide the chance of above or below median conditions. The FWFA project is testing a range of new experimental forecasts, including the value of describing the chance of having extremes of temperature or rainfall (decile 1 and 2 or decile 9 and 10). For instance, a forecast for the week of 3-9 September 2019, generated two weeks ahead, showed that a large area of Australia was likely to experience maximum temperatures that were much higher than average, specifically an increased risk of having decile 9-10 temperatures (Figure 2).

Figure 2. A forecast generated on 20 August 2019 showed that a large area of Australia (shown in light and dark orange) was likely to experience much higher than average maximum temperatures (decile 9-10) for the week, 3-9 September. The long-term average probability for decile 9-10 is 20 per cent. Source: Bureau of Meteorology.

Testing new forecast products

Reference groups from the red meat livestock, dairy, grains, sugar and viticulture industries are evaluating the new forecasting tools as they are developed. Their feedback is vital in helping the Bureau to decide which tools are valuable and refine them to better serve user needs.

“As part of the FWFA project we are testing new experimental forecast products with industry groups to see if they provide sufficient warning about these sorts of events to enable decision-making,” says Dr Hudson.

“Ultimately farmers are looking for information that will support them to make the most beneficial tactical and strategic decisions,” says the University of Melbourne’s Dr Ann-Maree Graham.

Dr Graham and the University’s Professor Richard Eckard are working with the FWFA project’s Dairy and Southern Livestock Reference Groups to evaluate the Bureau’s experimental products.

“When testing these new tools, it is vitally important for the producer to be able to relate the chosen forecast location to conditions on their own farm,” Dr Graham said. “Our reference groups have nominated additional forecast locations to overcome identified gaps in the test areas covered.”

Keeping it local

“We are providing experimental map-based forecast products, as well as forecasts for specific locations (Figure 3),” says Dr Hudson.

“We know that these tools are more valuable when the station is located near the user’s own property, so we asked our industry reference groups to provide feedback on the gaps in our test sites.”

“In response to this feedback we have added about 140 new test sites to the system, bringing the total to nearly 560.”

Figure 3. Maximum temperature forecasts for 3 to 9 September 2019 (generated 20 August) show the variation in conditions around Australia. While current forecasts show the probability of above or below median temperatures, these experimental forecasts show the probabilities of five different decile ranges for each station. The long-term average probability (climatology) for each category shown above is 20 per cent and the forecast shows the shift in the expected outcome compared to climatology.  Source: Bureau of Meteorology.

“One of the challenges we’ve had with testing the new tools is the sheer distance between the experimental forecast locations across the northern region,” says David Cobon, Senior Scientist with the University of Southern Queensland, who is working with the Northern Livestock Producers Reference Group to evaluate the tools.

“Feedback from the reference group led us to nominate additional stations that will help fill in the gaps providing better spatial resolution to help assess the tools.”

The result will be more thorough testing of potential new products, enabling the Bureau to develop a suite of valuable extreme event early-warning tools. The first products are expected to be publicly released on the Bureau website in 2021.


Dr Debbie Hudson, 03 9669 4796,

Dr Ann-Maree Graham, 0481 008 051,

Mr. David Cobon, 07 4631 1543,

Read more about the Forewarned is Forearmed project on THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Getting ahead of weather extremes with better forecasting products.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Special Climate Statement 69 is a report on the extended period of heavy rainfall and flooding in tropical Queensland, updated 8 March 2019.

The Forewarned is Forearmed project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture as part of its Rural R&D for Profit program. Project research partners: Bureau of Meteorology, South Australian Research and Development Institute, University of Melbourne, University of Southern Queensland, Birchip Cropping Group, Agriculture Victoria, Monash University and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Rural R&D Corporation partners: Meat & Livestock Australia, Dairy Australia, Wine Australia, Sugar Research Australia, Grains Research & Development Corporation, Agrifutures Australia, Cotton Research & Development Corporation and Australian Pork.

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