FOR THE first time since 2018 farmers across Australia will enter the autumn without a strong seasonal forecast of either wetter or drier conditions.
While meteorologists caution that forecasting skill is low for many areas in the late summer the strong consensus among long term climate models either for an Indian Ocean Dipole positive (correlated with dry conditions) in 2019 or the three consecutive La Ninas from 2020-22 meant there was some degree of confidence in autumn forecasts over the past four seasons.
However, the waning of the La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean that helped contribute to the record-breaking wet of 2022 means there is no clear signal of what the critical autumn period will bring.
In its most recent climate update the Bureau said that while the La Nina was still in place it was easing.
Ocean temperatures have eased below La Nina thresholds, however the atmosphere has yet to respond, and remains La Nina-like.
The Bureau said all the models it surveyed anticipated a return to neutral conditions in the Pacific that would last until at least mid-autumn.
Climate forecasters The Break, a team operated by Agriculture Victoria, said there was the likelihood of neutral conditions over the next three months.
Further out, some models are suggesting there could be drier than average conditions with no models forecasting a wetter than average autumn and early winter.
Grains Research and Development Corporation northern panel chair and Chinchilla grain grower Arthur Gearon said having a neutral outlook may provide a respite for some growers after the run of forecast wet seasons, where the grower community traditionally ratchets up spending to take advantage of better growing season conditions.
"To be honest, there are probably a few people out there that are not unhappy seeing a neutral forecast," he said.
"It's been a tremendously stressful few years and with the wet forecasts at the start of the year farmers have been gearing their systems towards pushing for big yields."
"With the high cost of inputs and then the roller-coaster ride we've had in many parts with flooding it has been a really taxing couple of years."
Mr Gearon said farmers would plan ahead according to what they had in front of them.
"With no clear signal to either wetter or drier conditions people will generally follow their fixed rotations and input strategies and will tailor the specifics of the program when the season gets going."
"We all know the climate drivers do not always mean rain or dry, you look at the 2020 La Nina when it was actually drier in many parts of Queensland, farmers will just stick to their long term management programs."
In the short-term a cold blast will sweep southern Australia while there is the possibility of useful falls in the north.
The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is currently moderate to strong and over the eastern Indian Ocean. Most models expect it to move across Indonesia and towards the western Pacific in the coming week, with a possible decline in strength.
While across Indonesia, the MJO may increase the chance of an active monsoon period in northern Australia.
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