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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

March 6 2003

Bureau of Meteorology Advises Economists

The weather over the next few months and the prospects for rain are on the agenda for the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARE) Outlook 2003 Conference - a major agricultural economics forum currently being held in Canberra.

Climate experts from the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology are providing key advice to leading national and international economic and agricultural industry experts.

In a paper being presented at the ABARE Conference today, the Bureau's climate experts will advise that prospects are favourable for some follow up rain and for a return to more normal rainfall patterns through the autumn. Signs of the demise of the El Niño are now clear and the shorter-term weather forecasts are for more rain in northern Australia.

Climate statistics confirm that the 2002 drought ranks as one of the worst in 103 years of official Australian weather records.

Dr Stone said the National Climate Centre's analysis shows that the area covered by this drought was similar to the infamous Federation drought of 1901/02 at over 60 per cent of the continent. However, record high temperatures that accompanied this drought increased its intensity. Average maximum temperatures for 2002 were over one degree above normal - the highest departure from normal measured in 100 years of record keeping.

"The lack of rain and very high temperatures made this drought so exceptional in terms of its impacts on both agriculture and the bushfire season," Dr Stone said.

"The increased scientific understanding of influences such as the El Niño and Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures, and the translation of years of research into useable data are making the Bureau's climate outlooks an increasingly valuable economic tool."

Further Information:
Dr Stone's Office Anna Hughes 02 6277 2016
Bureau of Meteorology Kevin O'Loughlin or Michael Coughlan 0418 101602

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