An efficient and helpful tool to determine the future risks of climate change in agriculture was reported by experts from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) during the symposium titled, “Climate Variability and Change,” organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) during its celebration of the 7th Development Policy Research Month (DPRM).
However ACIAR indicated that, significant developments have been made towards understanding the atmospheric and oceanic processes causing the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the occurring factor resulting to climate variability in tropical Pacific regions including the Philippines.
ENSO is a periodic change in the atmosphere and ocean of the tropical Pacific region. Though it is a complex process, it involves the unsusual warming and cooling of the ocean’s surface temperature. The El Niño is the warm phase of ENSO while La Niña is the cool phase. The changes in temperature that these phases bring affect the weather and climate in many parts of the world, the ACIAR staff stated.
Fortunately, advances in science and technology and improvements in the understanding of ENSO, shed light in the predictability of climate fluctuations. New knowledge is now being used to generate Seasonal Climate Forecast (SCF), the ACIAR experts added.
Seasonal Climate Forecast is an estimate of how rainfall or temperature in a coming season is likely to be different from the prevailing average climate. SCFs use dynamical (based on laws of physics) or statistical (based on historical patterns) methods to predict the climate. They usually forecast “above median” or “below median” rainfall. Seasonal climate forecasting is usually done three months to a year in advance or longer.
In the Philippines, SCF is made possible through a multi-collaborative project, “Bridging the gap between seasonal climate forecasts (SCFs) and decision makers in agriculture” led by ACIAR and the Philippine Council for Agricultute, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), in collaboration with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and Leyte State University (LSU) as implementing institutions in the Philippines, while South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Charles Sturt University (CSU) and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (NSW-DPI) are the key participating institutions from Australia.
According to ACIAR, Seasonal Climate Forecast is very important in the context of agriculture. It helps minimize the risk of crop production failure during bad outcomes and aids farmers in taking advantage of the opportunities during good outcomes. It provides information on whether the coming season is likely to be wetter or drier and warmer or cooler than normal. In some cases, Seasonal Climate Forecast can indicate whether there is an increased likelihood of extreme events such as El Niño or La Niña and can give early warning to farmers and other agricultural decision makers about future risks in order for them to make appropriate preparations for their farm and related activities.
Since agriculture is vulnerable to climate variability, farmers may benefit from Seasonal Climate Forecast by being able to choose what crops to plant and when to plant them. Levels of farm input can also be determined after considering the weather in the coming season thru Seasonal Climate Forecast. While the risks may not be completely eliminated, information from Seasonal Climate Forecast can lessen the costs that would have been incurred and may even enable farmers to make substantial yields and higher incomes, the ACIAR peopl added.(Edmon B. Agron)