DROUGHT: What next? That’s the question on the lips of central west graziers looking to the skies for any relief from the big dry.
DROUGHT: What next? That’s the question on the lips of central west graziers looking to the skies for any relief from the big dry. Anne Smith

El Nino not welcomed

WITH 80% of the state drought-declared and rainfall sporadic and in small doses, another blow has been dealt to drought-stricken parts of the state with an unfavourable forecast.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Meteorology confirmed what they had been debating for months - an El Nino weather event.

The last time an El Nino was declared was five years ago and, for producers with crops in the ground and stock needing feed, the weather event which brings below-average rainfall, warm, dry conditions and heightened fire risk is not welcome.

Clermont grazier Peter Anderson, from Glenlea, said it confirmed their worst fears, but wasn't all doom and gloom.

"My initial reaction is that obviously it will be below average rainfall - things are not looking positive for rain, but that doesn't mean there won't be storms," Mr Anderson said.

"We could still pick up some storms; it's not all doom and gloom, but you certainly have to plan your property and operation considering that in mind.

"I understand El Nino is more about monsoonal rain rather than storm rain, but the chances are we are going to be below average... that's been on our mind for a few months now.

"We've already been in below average, and they've just confirmed our worst fear."

The onset of the El Nino is earlier than usual and the bureau's assistant director for climate information services, Neil Plummer, said prolonged El Nino conditions had meant some areas were more vulnerable to the impact of warmer weather and drier conditions.

"The failed northern wet season in 2012-13, compounded by poor wet seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15, have contributed to drought in parts of inland Queensland and Northern New South Wales."

He said it was being driven by warmer than average Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures, dominating this outlook and, while El Nino increased the risk of drought, it didn't guarantee it.

Mr Anderson said last year from April to December only 100mm of rain fell on his property where he runs cattle and grows sorghum and forage hay in summer, and wheat and chickpeas in winter.

"It was all spread out in little pieces, and was very dry coming up to the end of December, but we had 150mm and then 213mm in January and we haven't had much since," he said.

He said it would be foolish not to budget or work on your planning and operation of business considering a below average rainfall.

The people who feed a nation, feeding their stock through a long drought. Photo Anne Smith
The people who feed a nation, feeding their stock through a long drought. Photo Anne Smith unknown

"This mad weather isn't going to help much, but we'd already started making plans and putting cattle in the feedlot.

"We've started preparing for conditions that might not be all that favourable."

With the country already dry, Mr Anderson, also a fire warden, said he received warning from the Rural Fire Service Queensland to be vigilant with heightened fire conditions over coming days.

"They've said to review any permits and consider revoking them due to high wind and low humidity over the next week," he said.

"The country is dry and we've got low humidity and dry winds."

RFSQ Central Region Manager Brian Smith said residents in the Central Highlands and Central Coast wishing to conduct hazard reduction burns should put them on hold.

"Under these conditions, warm temperatures combined with low humidity and increased winds create dangerous fire conditions."

He urged residents to prepare their properties.

What is El Nino?A warming of sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific OceanMoist air at the surface that is heated, rises, cools and condenses in rain-bearing cloudsImpactsDrier than average winter-springEarly and extreme fire season Disrupted tropical weather with fewer tropical cyclones and later onset of northern monsoonal rains

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