An evaluation of soil water outlooks for winter wheat in south-eastern Australia

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 17:15
3020 (Moscone West)
Andrew William Western1, Kithsiri Bandara Dassanayake1, Kushan Chanaka Perera1, Oscar Alves2, Griffith Young2 and Robert Argent1,2, (1)The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, (2)Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia
Abstract: Soil moisture is a key limiting resource for rain-fed cropping in Australian broad-acre cropping zones. Seasonal rainfall and temperature outlooks are standard operational services offered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and are routinely used to support agricultural decisions. This presentation examines the performance of proposed soil water seasonal outlooks in the context of wheat cropping in south-eastern Australia (autumn planting, late spring harvest).

We used weather ensembles simulated by the Predictive Ocean-Atmosphere Model for Australia (POAMA), as input to the Agricultural Production Simulator (APSIM) to construct ensemble soil water “outlooks” at twenty sites. Hindcasts were made over a 33 year period using the 33 POAMA ensemble members. The overall modelling flow involved:

1. Downscaling of the daily weather series (rainfall, minimum and maximum temperature, humidity, radiation) from the ~250km POAMA grid scale to a local weather station using quantile-quantile correction. This was based on a 33 year observation record extracted from the SILO data drill product.

2. Using APSIM to produce soil water ensembles from the downscaled weather ensembles. A warm up period of 5 years of observed weather was followed by a 9 month hindcast period based on each ensemble member.

3. The soil water ensembles were summarized by estimating the proportion of outlook ensembles in each climatological tercile, where the climatology was constructed using APSIM and observed weather from the 33 years of hindcasts at the relevant site.

4. The soil water outlooks were evaluated for different lead times and months using a “truth” run of APSIM based on observed weather.

Outlooks generally have useful some forecast skill for lead times of up to two-three months, except late spring; in line with current useful lead times for rainfall outlooks. Better performance was found in summer and autumn when vegetation cover and water use is low.