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How Will El Nino Affect Harvests?

May 14, 2015
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By Paul Homewood 

 

h/t Green Sand

 

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/weather/11599248/Return-of-El-Nino-weather-cycle-could-see-food-prices-rise.html

 

The Telegraph report:

 

Food prices for a range of products from bread to meat could soon be back on the rise after Australian meteorologists declared the start of a new El Nino weather cycle.

El Niño weather cycles are caused by high temperatures arising in the equatorial Pacific, which can have dramatic consequences on the climate around the world but especially on major agricultural producing areas. A severe El Nino in the early 1980s caused mass disruption for farmers, with floods hitting large areas of the southern states of America, while droughts and bush fires devastated large parts of Australia.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has warned that El Nino is expected to become the dominant influence on Australian climate during the second half of the year.

“International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate that tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures are likely to remain above El Nino thresholds through the coming southern winter and at least into spring,” said the bureau in its report.

In 1998 an El Nino pushed up global average temperatures to a record high and was thought to have cost $45bn (£26bn) in damage, killing an estimated 23,000 people around the world. The most recent El Nino cycle hit in 2009, bringing with it floods in California and severe drought conditions that hit crop production in Australia.

Prices of soft commodities such as sugar, coffee and wheat will be particularly affected by the development of a new El Nino weather cycle.

Globally grain prices have been in the doldrums after favourable weather cycles and record plantings led to a build up of stockpiles for wheat, corn and soybeans. The price of wheat has fallen 25 per cent over the last year, according to the S&P GSCI All Wheat GTR index. Falling farmgate prices have placed Britain’s agriculture industry under strain over the last year.

However, severe droughts in Australia could serious impact stocks over the next year. The country accounts for 15pc of world wheat exports.

 

It is certainly true that El Ninos sometimes lead to slightly drier conditions in Australia, but this report seems way over the top, at least as far as Australia is concerned.

 

Wheat harvests in Australia are usually in spring, so it is rainfall during winter and spring months that is important for crops. The last big El Nino lasted from May 2009 to April 2010, so mainly affected the 2009 harvest.

Although rainfall during winter/spring 2009 was slightly below average with 106mm, there had been twenty five drier years since 1900. (The driest was 1940, which had a third less rain than 2009.)

 

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http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/timeseries.cgi?graph=rain&area=aus&season=0608&ave_yr=7

 

 

In terms of the wheat harvest in 2009 however, it was actually up slightly on 2008, and much higher than 2006 and 2007. The long term trend also remains firmly up.

 

ScreenHunter_2138 May. 14 11.53

http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=au&commodity=wheat&graph=production

 

 

As for global wheat production,although there was a small downward blip in 2010, harvests in the previous year were the highest on record at the time.

 

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http://faostat3.fao.org/compare/E

 

As the Telegraph note, globally grain prices have been in the doldrums after favourable weather cycles. (A fact we don’t often hear from our alarmist establishment!)

It may be that the El Nino this year will put some upward pressure on prices. But I don’t think we will see the apocalypse the Telegraph appear to be predicting.

10 Comments
  1. May 14, 2015 12:01 pm

    Paul, great post.

    In the great tradition of climate science as practiced by alarmists – and BOM is definitely in the alarmist camp – the BOM actual El Nino report (not the press release) is much more circumspect about what it will mean if El Nino does turn up this year.

    The overview report is here:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/#tabs=Overview

    It says the El Nino will be a wet one.
    “El Niño is often associated with below-average winter and spring rainfall over eastern Australia, and above-average daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country. However, the current May to July outlook suggests much of Australia is likely to be wetter than average. This is because a warmer-than-average Indian Ocean is dominating this outlook. El Niño is expected to become the dominant influence on Australian climate during the second half of the year.”

    And in the outlook section is here:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/#tabs=Outlooks

    It says the outlook is entirely model based and BOM has no confidence El Nino will be strong or weak:
    “All eight of the surveyed international climate models indicate the central Pacific Ocean will warm further during the coming months. All surveyed models indicate that NINO3.4 will remain above El Niño thresholds through the southern winter and at least well into spring. The average value of NINO3.4 expected by the end of the southern winter is about +1.5 °C; however, it is too early to determine with confidence how strong this potential El Niño could be.”

    BOM won’t even project the duration.

    Whatever BOM’s peddling it’s not science or even meteorology.

  2. BruceC permalink
    May 14, 2015 3:03 pm

    Why doesn’t the Telegraph (UK) report what the BoM actually reports? It’s the same here in Oz with the Sydney Morning Herald and ‘Our’ ABC. Same headlines, “Australia has declared a ‘substantial’ El Nino, blah, blah, blah”.

    And what’s this piece of rubbish, “However, severe droughts in Australia could serious impact stocks over the next year”

    Truth is, that’s not what’s stated in the official ENSO report;

    “El Niño is often associated with below-average winter and spring rainfall over eastern Australia, and above-average daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country. However, the current May to July outlook suggests much of Australia is likely to be wetter than average. This is because a warmer-than-average Indian Ocean is dominating this outlook. El Niño is expected to become the dominant influence on Australian climate during the second half of the year.”

    …and (under Outlooks tab);

    “The average value of NINO3.4 expected by the end of the southern winter is about +1.5 °C; however, it is too early to determine with confidence how strong this potential El Niño could be.”

    Full BoM ENSO report here;

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/#tabs=Overview

    This is how ‘Our’ ABC reported it on Tuesday;

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-12/el-nino-officially-declared-drier-hotter-conditions-predicted/6463966

  3. John F. Hultquist permalink
    May 14, 2015 6:15 pm

    BruceC quotes the ENSO report: “El Niño is often associated … .”

    There is the problem. These things are observed but not explained (fully). Thus, ‘analog years’ (analogue) are often used to attempt forecasts. An example can be found here (USA; State of Oregon):
    http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/NaturalResources/Documents/Weather/dlongrange.pdf

    {a large colorful pdf – loads slowly}
    This forecast is generated by utilizing weather records from previous years (analogs) with similar oceanic and atmospheric indices, as compared to the current year.
    Much more – worth a look.

    The point is “often associated” can also mean “often NOT” associated.

  4. May 14, 2015 6:55 pm

    I am sure I have some good rainfall figures on NZ
    let me have a look

  5. May 14, 2015 7:52 pm


    ok, so what we are seeing here is the rainfall curve for Wellington, NZ.
    The curve before 1927 and 2016 are illustration of the curve, it did/does not happen like that.
    There was/ is a dead end stop at 1927 and 2016. Hence the current [very] quiet sun.
    It means that rainfall in that area (NZ/ NSW) is not going to change much, right now, whatever NINO/NINA ….
    It is going to stay at around 1200 mm per year in Wellington, NZ
    (the 23 years cycles are “Hale” cycles which each consist of 2 Schwabe solar cycles)

  6. May 15, 2015 7:16 am

    OK, perhaps, on re-evaluating the curve, and the correctness of it, we have another year before the switch happens, whereby rainfall would reach its lowest point around NZ/NSW and then another couple of years of hovering around the minimum before moving up again.
    However, percentage wise, it really does not really look like is that much, at least not in Wellington.
    Maybe inland Australia it might be different though.

  7. manicbeancounter permalink
    May 15, 2015 9:54 pm

    The Telegraph says

    In 1998 an El Nino pushed up global average temperatures to a record high and was thought to have cost $45bn (£26bn) in damage, killing an estimated 23,000 people around the world.

    It should have said

    In 1998 an El Nino pushed up global average temperatures to a record high and was thought to have caused in damage of less than 0.1% of global output, increased global mortality by up to 0.033%. However, these are modeled estimates and are contingent upon assumptions that may not hold good. On the other hand, folks in Britain enjoyed a jolly fine summer, and a mild winter.

  8. Paul2 permalink
    May 15, 2015 11:03 pm

    Seems El Nino has been operating for some time now, according to Bloomberg:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-15/farmers-eat-rats-trade-tails-for-rice-as-el-nino-drought-begins

    My, how they love their climate scare stories.

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