The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management

Climate Change in Queensland's Grazing Lands. I. Approaches and Climatic Trends.

GM Mckeon, WB Hall, SJ Crimp, SM Howden, RC Stone and DA Jones

The Rangeland Journal 20(2) 151 - 176
Published: 1998


Climate change is an important global issue but is yet to be recognised as such by many rangelands users. This paper reviews some of the uncertainties relating to pre-instrumental and future climate change and documents current trends and fluctuations in climate of Queensland's grazing lands. Analysis of daily climate surfaces for Queensland's pastoral/cropping zone shows high variability in annual rainfall which is influenced by the El NiHo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. This relationship, when examined using moving windows, has changed during this century with the 1930-40s being a period of low correlation. Minimum temperatures taken from the climate surfaces also changed, showing a significant (P<0.01) increase over time especially in May. Over the 40 years since 1957, annual minimum temperatures have increased by l.0°C for the pastoral/cropping zone and coastal sub-zone, winter minimum temperatures by 1.2°C for the pastoral/cropping zone (1.3°C for the coastal sub-zone), summer minimum temperatures by 0.7°C for the pastoral/cropping zone and coastal sub-zone, and May minimum temperatures by 2.8°C for the pastoral/cropping zone (3.0°C for the coastal sub-zone). Consistent significant trends in vapour pressure (increasing, P<0.001) and solar radiation (decreasing, P<0.05) also occurred in May. The mechanisms for the identified climate trends and unusual behaviour of ENS0 are the subject of speculation with attribution of causes to natural variability or the enhanced greenhouse effect being unresolved. Continued monitoring of these trends and fluctuations will be important for the future management of Queensland's grazing lands with this analysis highlighting the need for discrimination of trends from natural variability. In terms of grazing management and degradation processes, this work also highlights that general changes in climate averages may disguise important variation at yearly and decadal time scales.

© ARS 1998

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