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What Next for Australia's Weather?

What Next for Australia's Weather?

09 February 2013

ANALYSIS - Following the recent spate of abnormal weather conditions throughout Australia, growers and producers are left perplexed about the likelihood of harvesting a decent crop this year, writes Gemma Hyland.

In 2012, Australia - like much of the world - was hit by drought, leading to intense wildfires, followed by severe flooding, which has caused widespread problems for growers.

Four of Australia's hottest days on record have occured in 2013 and temperatures have soared so much, that forecasters have been forced to add new colours to their weather maps, to indicate that the temperate has exceeded 50c.

Cotton growers on the Queensland-NSW border continue a waiting game as floodwaters from Queensland move south, inundating paddocks and farmhouses.

David Coulton, of Morella Agriculture, at Boggabilla in northern NSW says his current cotton crop was set to the best he'd ever grown, but all that changed when the remnants of Cyclone Oswald blew in last week.

"We've probably lost 30 per cent across the lot of what the potential was. It'll now be a break-even crop. No water for next year"

Mr Coulton says this is a very unusual flood because it's come from rain on the Queensland side of the border.

"The traditional flood usually comes from the headwaters at Glen Innes and Inverell. All this water is going to hit below Goondiwindi. It is going to be a massive flood," he said.

However, in recent days a new challenge has arrived with paddocks losing up to a metre of topsoil, mainly affecting Queensland's wheat and sorghum growers.

Jambin grain grower Tony Zischke says people are unsure how crops, or even grass, will grow without the nutrient-rich topsoil.

He told ABC Rural: "I lost substantial amounts of soil, quite a few inches in areas, up to feet in others. That's the backbone of farming. Without all those nutrients you're lost."

How are the crops faring?

According to the latest Australian ABARES Report, moderate to major flooding is continuing to occur in a number of river systems in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales as the flood peak associated with very heavy rainfall from ex-tropical cyclone ‘Oswald’ moves downstream.

Despite some reported stock and crop losses as a result of localised flooding, the recent heavy rainfall in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales is likely to benefit summer crops and pasture growth in regions not directly impacted by flooding.

For the week ending 6 February 2013, rainfall was mainly limited to Tasmania, coastal regions of eastern Australia and the northern tropics. The highest rainfall total for the week was 109 millimetres at Cape Wessel north of Gove in the Northern Territory.

The insurance industry says floods and fires have caused almost A$700 million in damage already this year.

The figures don't include the impact of fires in Victoria and South Australia where natural disasters weren't declared, reports ABC Rural.

Spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia, Campbell Fuller, says Queensland has sustained more than half the damage recorded so far.

"As of today, we're looking at A$553 million in insurance losses and nearly 54,000 claims from Queensland alone," he said.

"Nearly 300 uninhabitable houses and over 1000 that are considered badly damaged but probably still habitable.
"So, they're pretty big numbers at this point."

The actual damage bill is likely to be much higher because these figures don't take into account damage to rural producers for whom flood insurance isn't available.

To view the full ABARES report, click here.


Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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