Australia's Heat Wave Threatening Agricultural Production

 @MeaganKaym.clark@ibtimes.com
on January 17 2014 3:31 PM

The temperature is soaring in Australia, threatening Down Under’s agriculture production, as farmers struggle to provide water for their cattle and crops.

A report released on Wednesday by the Climate Council found that climate change is influencing the doubling number of hot days Australia experienced in 2008 compared to 1971 and the frequency of heat waves, defined as at least three consecutive days that reach a temperature in the top 10 percent for that time of the year.

“Australia has always had hot weather. However, climate change is loading the dice toward more extreme hot weather,” the report’s author, Will Steffen, said.

The report warns that heat waves will become more frequent in Australia.

“As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, more heat is trapped in the lower atmosphere,” the report states. “This increases the likelihood that hot weather will occur and that heat waves will become longer and more intense.

Australia is the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, the third-largest sugar exporter and the world’s third-largest beef exporter.  Already in the last month, beef prices on the benchmark Eastern Cattle Indicator dropped nearly 10 percent as farmers send more animals to the slaughter.

The country’s cattle herd will fall to 25 million head this season, the lowest since the 2009-2010 season, according to the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences.

“It will be much harder to maintain production if you have such extreme weather events,” Paul Deane, senior agricultural economist at ANZ Bank, told Eco-Business.com.

“Higher temperatures tend to lead to more evaporation of any rain, and all of sudden the water availability for crops is reduced, which will have a big impact on crops like wheat and sugar,” Deane said.

Temperatures this week over Australia’s south and southeast have reached record highs, rising over 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, causing Canadian tennis player Frank Dancevic at the Australian Open to hallucinate the cartoon dog Snoopy and then faint during a match. Adelaide’s 46C became the world’s hottest city on Thursday, according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization. 

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