Northern Australia Climate Program: supporting adaptation in rangeland grazing systems through more targeted climate forecasts, improved drought information and an innovative extension program

The Northern Australia Climate Program (NACP) is a program integrating research, development, and extension designed to promote information exchange between these groups in the extensive pastoral zone. The program has three goals: 1) improve regional forecasts 2) increase stakeholders’ awareness of climate and related decision tools and 3) enhance the relevance and incorporation of climate information into decision-making. In this article, researchers from the University of Southern Queensland describe the NACP framework, present preliminary results and provide an evaluation to inform those seeking to use similar methods.


The program uses two-way communication between stakeholders and researchers allowing for development of targeted, demand-driven services. This relies on part-time employees, called Climate Mates, that are supported by NACP climate scientists. Climate Mates engage with producers and their advisors to increase awareness of available forecasts and services, improve skills, and enable practice change.


As part of the NACP researchers have investigated ways to improve climate model accuracy including studies addressing the use of the Evaporative Stress Index to monitor drought, using ensembles to forecast extreme events, and evaluation of forecasts of extreme rainfall, temperature, and wind. The NACP has developed a web-based Combined Drought Monitor (CDI) for Australia that provides a data driven analysis of drought. A benefit-cost analysis was performed based on the criteria of the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporation. Benefits are 5-6x that of costs and this is considered a conservative estimate of long-term benefits across northern Australia.