Weathering the storm

Weather forecasting services outlined ahead of cyclone season

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DTN meteorologist Rick Threlfall and Mutarnee nursery owner Peter Woodman discuss the impact the monsoon had on Mr Woodman's business.

DTN meteorologist Rick Threlfall and Mutarnee nursery owner Peter Woodman discuss the impact the monsoon had on Mr Woodman's business.

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Producers in North Queensland are looking to install their own weather stations in a bid to get a greater understanding of conditions on their properties.

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PRODUCERS in North Queensland are looking to install their own weather stations in a bid to get a greater understanding of conditions on their properties.

A series of climate and weather workshops held across the North last week attracted dozens of primary producers keen to hear about the latest technologies and what the upcoming wet season may have in store.

The forums, held in Ayr, Townsville and Ingham, came on the back of the devastating monsoon which inundated large swathes of north and north west Queensland in January and February.

DTN meteorologist Rick Threlfall said farmers were interested to learn about how to access climate and weather information, and what services and tools were available.

"We were really explaining a little bit about what DTN can offer the agricultural community in Queensland," Mr Threlfall said.

"We provide weather forecasting and in particular we're looking at installing more weather stations... as often the nearest weather station can be tens or hundreds of kilometres away."

Mr Threlfall said gathering more observations and broader analysis of the atmosphere could improve the accuracy of temperature and wind forecasts, with computer models using that data to tailor the forecasts.

He said farmers in particular could benefit from installing their own weather stations.

"Large areas could benefit from these automated weather stations, because once you're outside the capital cities they tend to be pretty sparse, particularly away from the east coast.

"It can be really beneficial to know exactly what happens at a location, which is critical for the farming industry for growth of nurseries, cane farms, and that sort of thing."

Mr Threlfall said in the past, the cost of installing a weather station had been prohibitive, but with advancements in technology, a decent system was now about $1900 and would last 10-15 years.

These feed data into computer models and can provide alerts to farmers when the temperature gets too hot, or windy.

"The fact that it feeds into computer models improves the forecast for the days ahead."

However, Mr Threlfall said events such as the 2019 monsoon would always remain difficult to predict.

"The monsoon trough just sat in the same area for seven to ten days, with day after day of monsoonal rain that lead to record breaking rain around the region.

"The main thing was how prolonged it was.

"To have such a slow moving system is very rare. A similar monsoon trough sat over that same area in 1953, so there has only been three or four occasions in the last 100 years or so."

Mutarnee Boomgaard Nursery owner Peter Woodman received 2600mm over 14 days, and while his property did not flood, waterlogged plants were unable to recover.

Mr Woodman has been operating the wholesale production nursery since 1992, providing palms, shrubs and trees, mainly for landscaping, to buyers throughout North Queensland and down to Brisbane.

He said the main damage to his plants came from the lack of sunshine and blistering hot days that followed the monsoonal rain.

"The plants suffered dramatically, a lot of rot set in and our losses were quite substantial," Mr Woodman said.

"We had to throw out nearly 8000 assorted plants, mainly because they deteriorated with a lack of sunshine afterwards and a percentage got sunburned."

Mr Woodman said while Mutarnee was used to high rainfall, getting about 1500-1600mm per year, the extended period of the monsoon caused the issues.

He attended the workshop to pick up some tips as to how forecasts came about and to learn about advancements in technology.

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