EL NINO: Benair farmer Peter Howlett is happy with the current season.Photo Rhiannon Tuffield / South Burnett Times
EL NINO: Benair farmer Peter Howlett is happy with the current season.Photo Rhiannon Tuffield / South Burnett Times Rhiannon Tuffield

El Niño force doesn't break South Burnett farmers

FOR more than a year, climatologists have warned us of the effect an El Niño could have on our land, but farmer Peter Howlett says the season has so far been a blessing.

El Niño is an ocean and atmospheric phenomenon that has a significant impact on our planet's weather, causing amplified drought and flood conditions.

But the weather for many South Burnett farmers has brought a good season with solid land production.

"At the start of the summer season, everyone was looking at the long-term forecasts and, being an El Niño, it was predicted to be an extremely dry year but fortunately it's turned out to be pretty much the opposite," Mr Howlett, said.

Mr Howlett has run a crop farm in Benair, just north of Kumbia, with his wife for the past decade.

Although he had a dry start to the season and had to irrigate, he said the last couple of months had been good.

Before the season, Mr Howlett planted mung beans for their good price and durability.

"It looked like it was going to be quite a dry season and, at the start of the summer, you start to evaluate what options you have," Mr Howlett said.

"You look at those long-term forecasts and some of your decision-making is based on that."

"Having said that, I don't think anybody's complaining - they're fairly happy with how the season has gone."

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the El Niño remains strong but continues to decline.

Climate models suggest a return to neutral levels in the second quarter of 2016.

During Australia's northern wet season, it is not unusual to see big fluctuations in the Southern Oscillation Index due to the passage of tropical systems, and hence its value may not be representative of the overall ENSO state.

"The El Niño would appear to affect different districts differently," Mr Howlett said.

"I think probably through central Queensland, the pattern might have a greater effect.

"Even parts of the Darling Downs haven't had their own either - there are so many variables."

Based on the 26 El Niño events since 1900, about 50% have been followed by a neutral year, and 40% have been followed by La Niña.

Current models suggest the neutral state is most likely for the second half of 2016, followed by La Niña.

Although the season has been good for South Burnett farmers so far, Mr Howlett said the climate was always unpredictable.

He said if the region received one more decent fall of rain towards the end of February, the season would be one of the best.

"There's always the risk of a wet harvest and you have to hope for the best," Mr Howlett said.

"The number of people I've spoken to, they've gone if this is an El Niño, we'd want one every year.

"Honest to goodness, we've had some way worse seasons than this."