The Weather Bureau has declared that an El Niño and a Positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) are underway. When a positive IOD and El Niño occur together, their drying effect is typically stronger and more widespread across Australia.
Average rainfall across the state of 21mm was the lowest ever recorded for September in Victoria. Average temperatures across the state were the second highest ever recorded. The combined effects of climate change and the El Niño event are clearly having an impact.
October to February rainfall is likely to be below median for much of Australia including Central Victoria. Maximum temperatures are at least three times as likely to be unusually warm for most of Australia. Minimum temperatures are also likely to be above average.
What does this mean for us here in Daylesford and district?
September rainfall of 40mm in Daylesford was less than half of the long-term monthly average of 89mm. August rainfall of 50mm was just under half the long-term 103mm. At the same time, very pleasant and mild spring weather has been enjoyed after lots of cool and moist winter conditions. Overall, our year to date rainfall is slightly below average.
We have been fortunate that the preceding seven months produced average or above rainfall and ground moisture at the end of winter was good. However, soil is drying rapidly and many gardeners are having to water their gardens, particularly vegetable gardens.
It is a good time to review your maintenance of garden areas. Mulching garden beds can be beneficial as long as you make sure that the soil underneath has decent moisture. Some mulches can reduce how much rainfall and watering get through to the ground.
Warmer temperatures may provide better and earlier growing conditions for certain plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and egg plants. Most of these plants usually struggle with our typically cooler nights and very mixed day temperatures. The Bureau predictions suggest that frosts will be less likely during this spring. The local saying has been “Do not plant tomatoes before Cup Day”. This year you probably can, particularly if you provide some protection in case of the odd frost.
While our water reservoirs have been close to full, it is vital that all of us are careful to conserve water.
Also, preparation for a potentially difficult fire season is important. Make sure you have your plan in place and reduce fire risks around your property. Look out for your neighbours who might need help if a fire occurs.
The effects of El Niño have already hit very hard in many parts of inland Australia. On our caravan expedition during July and August we had feedback from farmers that sheep from NSW had been adgisted into Queensland because of the lack of pasture even though it was winter. Now, those dry conditions with the lack of pasture and soil moisture are hitting more regions. It might be a good time to think about growing hardy vegetables that do not need big amounts of water as food supplies are often affected during El Niño conditions. Hopefully this will not be a long or severe dry period.
Victor Szwed is a local resident who writes a monthly weather summary for The Wombat Post.