Far Northerners could be in for a wet winter as forecasters grow increasingly confident a La Nina event is on the way.
The prediction has been welcomed by Tablelands irrigators, who face water allocation cuts with Tinaroo Dam sitting at about 56 per cent, but met with dismay by cane growers starting the crush.
James Cook University Associate Professor Yvette Everingham said it was almost certain the current El Niño weather pattern was weakening and would be replaced by a La Nina system. El Niño events are associated with a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific, while La Nina events are the reverse.
“A La Nina will increase the odds of getting much-needed relief rainfall in many places around Australia,” she said.
Canegrowers Cairns deputy chairman and Gordonvale farmer, Paul Gregory, is preparing to harvest a record crop after extended warm weather created perfect growing conditions.
“The unfortunate thing is the predicted La Nina event might make that a lot more difficult because of the expected rain over the next three months,” he said.
“The effect of that will be a reduced crushing rate because the ground will be too soggy to get in to harvest, reduced CCS (commercial cane sugar, a measure of recoverable sugar in the cane) and of course if it rains, the crop will keep growing instead of making the sugar we want.
“It might be another long, arduous season … if you asked farmers what they least wanted they would say rain from June to August.”
But growers in other industries are pinning their hopes on a La Nina event as they battle dry conditions.
Mareeba and District Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association president Joe Moro said irrigators were facing a 30-40 per cent cut to allocations as water levels at Tinaroo Dam dwindled.
“With La Nina around, we can be optimistic early storms will come and not only help with irrigation but also fill Tinaroo and increase flow into Tinaroo, which will mean we’ll be able to increase our allocations,” he said.
“La Nina gives us a little confidence we’ll be able to get through the water year with hopefully not too much difficulty, but it’s still no guarantee, so most farmers are planning for the worst and hoping for best.”