Australia Family honoured for 100 years of service to Bureau of Meteorology say past 10 years one of the driest

00:26  28 february  2021
00:26  28 february  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man standing in front of a building: Gerard Walsh says rainfall at Coolesha has been below average. (ABC Southern Queensland: Nathan Morris) © Provided by ABC NEWS Gerard Walsh says rainfall at Coolesha has been below average. (ABC Southern Queensland: Nathan Morris)

A Queensland family honoured for 100 years of service to the Bureau of Meteorology as rain observers say the past 10 years have been the driest on record.

Overlooking the old family farmhouse on Gerard Walsh's farm is a hill covered in hundreds of dead ironbarks.

"Two years ago, they would have all been alive and flourishing. Basically every tree has died," Mr Walsh said.

Across all of 2019, his property at Greymare in southern Queensland recorded just 144 millimetres of rain — the driest in 100 years.

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"Certainly the rainfall has changed, all for the lesser," Mr Walsh said.

For more than a century, the Walsh family have been recording rainfall on their farm Coolesha for the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

"My mother Margaret Walsh, she would have done the weather for some 60 years, her parents before that," Mr Walsh said.

The long service was recently recognised with an award from the BOM.

The voluntary role has meant the Walsh family have been able to observe up close those effects of climate change on the Southern Downs region.

Rainfall at Coolesha has been below average for seven of the past 10 years, consistent with the BOM's most recent State of the Climate report.

"Income was more than halved during most of that period of time," Mr Walsh said.

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Like many in the region, less rain has meant less feed for cattle and the Walshes have had to reduce cattle numbers.

Helping farmers understand climate change

University of Southern Queensland climate scientist Chelsea Jarvis spends a lot of her time travelling around sharing information with farmers.

"What I try to focus on is providing them with some more information and alternatives such as a seasonal climate forecast, which is just another tool," Dr Jarvis said.

"Climate will never be the only thing that producers make decisions on."

Farmers in the Southern Downs are dealing with declining winter rainfall and the prospect of back-to-back droughts.

"We know long term, this area, and other parts of Queensland, but specifically the Southern Downs has one of the most variable rainfall climates in the world," Dr Jarvis said.

"We do know that multi-year droughts need to be considered a regular thing."

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Despite being very aware of the enormous problem that climate change is for humanity, Dr Jarvis remains upbeat.

"I also have a lot of belief in the capacity of humans to solve problems," she said.

"Climate change is just another challenge, and it's something that we have to be very aware of, but I think at the end of the day it'll give us great opportunity for personal and technical growth and also just becoming and more aware of our planet."

While the grass is a bit greener around parts of south-east Queensland, there has been no substantial rain, and places like nearby Stanthorpe have been trucking drinking water for more than a year now.

"Things don't look like they're going to get any easier. We just hope the next 10 years is significantly better than the last 10 years," Mr Walsh said.

Video: Climate change drastically affecting south-western corner of Australia (ABC NEWS)

BOM warns Tropical Cyclone Niran expected to intensify as it tracks away from coast .
Cyclone Niran is expected to intensify into a category three storm within the next 24 hours, bringing gusts of up to 100kph to coastal and island communities. The slow-moving category two system is hovering about 335 kilometres north-east of Cairns.Winds of 100 kilometres an hour have been recorded at Niran's centre, with gusts up to 140kph.The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) updated its warning zone early this morning, with communities from Cape Melville to Innisfail now in the warning zone.The cyclone is not expected to make landfall.

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