HEADING into the critical spring period there is better news ahead for Australian farmers in terms of climate drivers.
After an El Niño event looked all but a fait accompli earlier in the year, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) now reports all international climate models it uses are predicting the tropical Pacific will remain neutral for the remainder of 2017.
In the Indian Ocean, most models are also suggesting neutral conditions, with only two forecasting an Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) positive event, consistent with lower rainfall in Australia.
Felicity Gamble, climatologist with the BOM climate forecasting teams, said sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have cooled and are within the neutral range, while the 30-day Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) also remains neutral.
In terms of the BOM models’ forecasts for spring they are split between slightly drier and neutral in terms of rainfall.
Dale Grey, climate agronomist with Agriculture Victoria, said everything looked normal or better at present.
“It could still come in dry through the spring, but it would be a real surprise if the season totally cut out given the way the drivers are lining up.”
He said there was good warmth in the Coral Sea at present which can be an important source of moisture and that trade winds and cloud patterns are more like La Niña than anything else.
“The activity around Papua New Guinea at present also means it is likely there is more moisture about,” he said.
After a record breaking dry spell through June, much of Australia returned to more average rainfall figures in July and there have already been promising falls in August in southern areas, although northern NSW and southern Queensland continues to miss out.
The turnaround in the season is highlighted by the fact that in May four out of six models were predicting an El Niño to form this year.