NEW PLAN: Jayke Jackwitz will be making changes to the family farm's usual winter growing plan if El Nino sets in this year.
NEW PLAN: Jayke Jackwitz will be making changes to the family farm's usual winter growing plan if El Nino sets in this year. Ebony Graveur

Farmers brace for heat as signs point toward El Nino

WHILE scientists call it a natural part of the Australian climate cycle, farmers Andrew and Jayke Jackwitz will be making changes to their usual routine if an El Nino sets in this winter.

Characterised by its hotter than average temperatures and lower than average rainfall, an ElNino is a climate phenomenon typically affecting Australia every one to eight years.

The last time Australia experienced an El Nino was 2015-16 and Jayke and his father Andrew didn't notice a huge difference.

Andrew said, as far as he could tell, the temperature was rising every year.

"Every year seems to be getting hotter,” he said.

"We're always thinking it's going to go back to normal and be a normal cold winter.”

Across 1200 acres, the family grows a number of vegetables and grazes about300 cattle at Jackwitz Farms in Lowood.

Growing watermelons, onions and pumpkins in the summer, the family focused on brassicas such as broccoli, wombok, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce throughout the winter.

For the upcoming winter, if the El Nino were to set in, the farmers were unsure of their exact plan.

"How can we prepare for it really? The trouble is, we've got no surface water, we're relying on bores for irrigation,” Andrew said.

"The weather is a big part of what we do.”

He said despite the recent rainfall, drought was still affecting his property.

"It's like a green drought,” he said.

"We've had rain the past couple of months but still don't have any surface water.”

Andrew said they would consider planting different crops to their normal winter range, hedging their bets with autumn and spring varieties to increase the likelihood of a successful growing season.

"It's probably going to affect some of our winter varieties,” he said.

"If it's still warmer than usual in the middle of winter, we'll have problems with varieties.”

Jayke said the quality of produce could also be affected with less than ideal growing conditions.

"If we had a crystal ball, we'd know what the weather's going to be,” he said.

"It could change. It might be a cold winter. Who knows.”

El Nino is possible for winter

A NATURAL part of Australia's climate and the reason the country is prone to experiencing dry conditions and warmer weather, El Niño may be on the cards this winter.

Climatologist Robyn Duell said early warning signs in the Pacific ocean suggested El Nino may be on its way but that it was too early to confirm.

"We are see a lot of warming occur in the equatorial Pacific ocean with rising air, cloudiness and rainfall,” she said.

"When that happens away from Australia in the eastern Pacific, we see a focus of that tropical conviction occurring further away from Australia and we tend to see cooler than usual water around Australia.”

She said the water could indicate El Nino was developing but that the secondary signs were not yet displayed.

"We're not seeing a sign that the atmosphere has responded to the warm water yet, so we're not in El Nino yet,” she said.

"Our model does predict that it's going to be a warmer than average winter,” she said.

She said currently the event was 70% likely to occur this winter and that it was a naturally-occurring part of the country's climate, taking place between every two and eight years.

The last recorded El Nino event took place across 2015 and 2016.

"There can be lots of reasons why we'll get a warmer than average climate but El Nino can be one of those reasons,” Ms Duell said.

"It's the reason we are the country of droughts and rains.”


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