CliMate – a richer picture of climate odds

Author: Rachel Bowman | Date: 17 Jun 2013


Graingrowers dealing with the vagaries of the weather now have a handy new tool to aid in their decision-making – the CliMate iPhone and web App developed by well-known soil scientist, Dr David Freebairn, RPS Australia principal environmental scientist.

Dr Freebairn says bringing together decision support aids and 65 years of daily rainfall, temperature and radiation data gathered by 4500 Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) weather stations, overlayed with the Queensland Government’s Silo data base, ranks among his career highlights.

“Managing uncertainty is a crucial skill for agricultural decision makers and this App can help reduce some of this uncertainty by fostering a better understanding of the odds associated with weather,” he said.

“A rich history of each property is reflected in the long term weather data and if you were manually flicking through your data page by page, year by year you could build up a picture of probabilities to answer the questions you have in mind.

“The App and the aids it contains allow growers to quickly and easily answer questions such as the probability of well-timed planting rain or unfortunate frost events.”

Dr Freebairn says the probabilities should be stable and reliable for any area across Australia.

“The App can be used to map long term events and tap into recent weather events to tell you how your crops and soil are situated at any given time throughout the growing cycle.”

He expects growers will use CliMate most frequently during key decision points such as planting, in-crop fertilizer application and harvest.

Since its December launch CliMate has been downloaded 4000 times with a spike during the Christmas period which Dr Freebairn puts down to gifted iPads and iPhones.

The development of the App has been supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) under the co-funded Managing Climate Variability (MCV) program. Programmer, Dr David McClymont has carried out software development.

“We have received positive feedback about CliMate improving the accessibility to data and the set up as a question-focused tool.

“We recommend growers use CliMate, as well as access their own records, use a push probe, kick the soil, take soil samples for analysis – whatever they do, information from several directions leads to better informed decisions based on available data.”

The App contains a collection of climate-related links and previously computer-based tools such as How Wet? and How Often? developed previously by Dr Freebairn and his APSRU colleagues that allow growers to ask specific questions including:

  1. How Often? What is the chance of planting rain? How often is a heat sum achieved? What is the probability of temperature being above or below a critical level for germination or flowering?
  2. How Hot-Cold? When determining an ideal sowing date, when are heat and cold stresses lowest for optimum flowering?
  3. Season’s Progress? How is this current season’s total rainfall and radiation compared with previous?
  4. How Wet? Nitrogen? How does soil water and nitrate accumulation over the fallow compare with other years?
  5. How Likely? What is the probability that rainfall or temperature is greater than the median and how reliable has this forecasts been in the past?
  6. How’s El Nino? What is the current ENSO status based on key atmospheric and oceanic indicators? What is the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s interpretation of this?
  7. How’s the Past? What is the history of monthly and annual climate variables?

CliMate can be downloaded by searching for ‘Australian Climate’ in the Apple App store and a Web App is available at which will run on any computer or mobile device.


Audio download: Click here to download an audio grab for this release. Audio is of David Freebairn

Contact details

For interviews

Dr David Freebairn
07 3237 8820


Rachel Bowman
Cox Inall Communications
07 3846 4380 / 0412 290 673

GRDC Project Code MVC00028

Region North, National, South, West