Methods to predicting rain

Whether it’s based on looking at ants nests, turtles going up hill or if their knee hurts, we all know someone who has a foolproof method for predicting rain.

Watershed Landcare caught up with Dr. Andrew Watkins, Supervisor, Climate Prediction Services with the Bureau of Meteorology to find out how the climate scientists do it.

“The bureau model used for long range outlooks is a dynamical model. It’s based on the physics of the atmosphere, physics of the oceans, physics of land processes, how moisture gets into soil and so on, and also the physics of ice and how that moves.” said Dr. Watkins.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) did not issue long range climate forecasts prior to computers but it was really the arrival of the satellite era in the 1980s, and the vastly increased capacity to collect data, which allowed modelling.

“The physics based models are very complex. Just for the atmosphere we use between 40 and 60 million pieces of data every time we run it.” said Dr. Watkins.

The bulk of the data comes from satellite but also buoys out at sea, weather stations on land, aircraft and ships. The data is put into the models and is then pushed forward with the laws of physics, shuffling the oceans and atmosphere in 3 dimensions.

“We can’t do the physics down to an atomic scale, to see what happens to each individual atom, so at some stage you have to make a compromise at what the physics are on a broad scale.” said Dr. Watkins.

The BOM works in collaboration with CSIRO scientists to determine the important elements within physics to be included, constantly searching for ways to improve the model slightly.

“We just can’t measure the current weather at every single location, we don’t all have a weather station at our front gate. So the models have to make an assumption about what’s going on at a particular location.” said Dr. Watkins.

“If that assumption is even slightly incorrect, the upshot of that is that the small difference between reality and what we’re assuming, over time, will grow and will get to a time where it no longer makes sense.” he continued.

For that reason the seasonal climate outlooks issued by the BOM are probabilistic, which means they state the odds of a given outcome occurring.

“With probabilistic forecasts you always have to remember to turn them the other way, if there is a 60% chance of it being wet that means there is a 40% chance of it being dry. So you have to weigh up the odds there,” said Dr. Watkins, “if a 40% chance of it being dry is a risk you have to take that into account.”

“What we try to do in the BOM is give people odds in their favour, so if you’re using the seasonal outlook over a number of years you’ll be coming out ahead overall. Use it conservatively; look at the odds, look at the money in the bank, look at the current soil moisture conditions, various other things and make decisions based on all those things together.”

Suffocating roadside rubbish

Urban dwellers often take pride in, and some degree of ownership for the nature strip or roadside verge outside their homes. Mowing grass, edging the footpath and rubbish removal are common activities undertaken by the urban community.

Rural landholders view their roadsides in much the same manner. Some even consider the roadsides close to their holdings as an extension of their driveway. The presence of litter amongst the roadside vegetation is no less distasteful to rural dwellers than it is to the urban community. The natural vegetation along our rural roadsides is both beautiful and uniquely Australian. Locals and visitors alike do not wish to see litter on the roadsides, amongst our uniquely Australian landscape.

Roadside litter may also cause injury or death to native animals which use roadside vegetation as habitat. Carelessly discarded containers can trap small mammals or reptiles. The consumption of small plastic items can suffocate any animal. Circular items such as those found on the tamper proof lids of plastic milk bottles can slowly strangle an animal as it grows.

Those driving along our rural roads need to be observant for wildlife or livestock on the roadsides, which may stray onto the road and cause an accident. Rural landholders are often more observant of roadside activity, looking also for damaged fences, escaping livestock, weeds and feral animals. This heightened observational level makes the presence of roadside litter glaringly apparent.

Sometimes rubbish may escape trailers, utes or trucks, but, on inspection, mostly this litter is a result of the disposal of fast food containers, bottles and cans once the contents are consumed. This has become a fact of life in Australia, and will continue to be so until penalties for littering are severe enough to dissuade the activity of casually tossing rubbish out of the car window. Surprisingly 94% of people surveyed identified litter as a major environmental problem!

This pile of rubbish was picked up in 5 minutes along one of our rural roads.

Despite the continued practice of littering there is a lot the community can do. Enjoy the sunshine, get some exercise and clean up our rural roadsides. Take a suitable container, walk one kilometer picking up rubbish as you go, cross the road and continue back to the starting point. Litter attracts litter. The presence of roadside litter gives the impression that the residents do not care about their environment. Therefore, if it bothers you, pick it up. There is no need to wait for Clean Up Australia Day, take action now and show pride in your local area.

Trees Available

Quantity species Common name Growth Tips where to plant
3 E. stellulata Black sallee Grows to 15m  
16 E.bridgesiana Apple box Grows to 20m  
17 E. albens WHITE BOX Grows: 8-15m high Plant: most soils, plains & low hills
35 E. microcarpa Grey Box Grows to 25m  
27 A. dealbata SILVER WATTLE Grows: to 20m Plant: various soils, often creek banks
13 E. sideroxylon Mugga iron bark Grows to 25m  
37 Lomandra longifolia spiny matt rush

Wild dog pests in their sights

Increased levels of damage to livestock have meant pest animal groups are targeting wild dogs as a priority across the region.

There are five pest groups within the Watershed Landcare area, these being the Hargraves Hill End Wild Dog Group, Ilford Running Stream Pest Group, Rylstone District Wild Dog Association, Munghorn Wild Dog Group and the newly formed Piambong Yarrabin Pest Group. These groups are volunteer run and strive to support landholders and residents within their areas to manage wild dogs and other pest animals.

The Groups, and the Mudgee LLS, are the first point of call if landholders have seen wild dogs or suspect they are suffering from livestock attack or losses.

“Communication and reporting are vital.” said Peter Sipek, Chairman of the Munghorn Wild Dog Group.

“We all need to know if our neighbours have seen dogs or they are having problems on their place. If we know where they are we can target our control much more effectively.” he continued.

Coordinated, winter 1080 baiting programs are currently being undertaken. “Again, we encourage all landholders to get involved,” said Peter “the greater the area we cover within a baiting program means fewer pockets where dogs can exist, and it takes longer for them to re-establish in the area. Wild dogs are a community problem and we need everybody to get on board.”

The Munghorn Wild Dog Group’s baiting program will be carried out on Thursday the 30 August and follows on from baiting programs recently carried out in the south and east of the region.

Remote cameras are used extensively across the region, providing a valuable tool pre and post baiting. If dogs continue to be seen on these cameras, or mauled livestock are reported after a landholder has been involved in a baiting program, then sending a trapper to the area can also be considered.

Wild dog detected on a remote camera in the upper Bylong area.

Contact details for the 5 pest groups are:

Hargraves Hill End Wild Dog Group: 0458 733 308

Ilford Running Stream Pest Group: 0427 025 802

Rylstone District Wild Dog Association: 6379 6256

Munghorn Wild Dog Group: 0417 322 436

Piambong Yarrabin Pest Group: 0438 686 369

Watershed Landcare Pest Animal Group Coordinator Beth Greenfield can be contacted for more information on 0438 090 525 or by email

Trees Available

E. stellulata
E. albens
E. microcarpa
A. dealbata
E. sideroxylon
Lomandra longifolia
Common name
Black sallee
Apple box
Grey Box
Mugga iron bark
spiny matt rush
Grows to 15m
Grows to 20m
Grows: 8-15m high
Grows to 25m
Grows: to 20m
Grows to 25m
Tips where to plant
Plant: most soils, plains & low hills
Plant: various soils, often creek banks

It’s a ten year celebration of Green Day

Watershed Landcare has been running Green Day for local school children for 10 years! In this time over five and half thousand children have visited the Mudgee Showground to learn about environmental themes such as biodiversity, energy, waste and water.

On September 16, local schools will again bring their Year 5 and 6 students to experience a day centred around the theme Go WoW or Go Make a Difference War on Waste.

“Our theme is all about taking action. Workshops will provide students with key take-home messages.” said Vivien Howard, Chair of Watershed Landcare.

“We are fortunate to have over 20 speakers and workshop presenters to give children a broad appreciation of the scale of the waste issue, the associated problems and importantly how they can do their bit to tackle the problem.”

“We are excited to have secured Craig Reucassel as our keynote speaker this year, his second series of War on Waste currently airing on ABC TV is a timely backdrop to our event.” she continued.

ABC’s War on Waster presenter, Craig Reucassel, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Green Day.

Green Day takes place on Thursday, 13 September 2018 at Mudgee Showground. This event is supported by Watershed Landcare, Mid-Western Regional Council, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Moolarben Coal and Wilpinjong Coal and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

To find out more, contact Beth Greenfield on 0438 090 525 or email