Map courtesy of PIRSA
The map above shows Goyder’s Line, which is defined by Wiki as ‘a boundary line across South Australia corresponding to a rainfall boundary believed to indicate the edge of the area suitable for agriculture. North of Goyder’s Line, the rainfall is not reliable enough, and the land is only suitable for grazing and not cropping.’
A recent review by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and CSIRO suggested that the line could shift as far as Clare Valley by 2070 under the most extreme climate change scenario. However, it is more likely that the line would stay roughly where it is now or move just north of Jamestown.
Read more about George Woodroffe Goyder here.
There’s an article in farmonline.com discussing Goyder’s line and climate change:
Goyder’s Line on the move with climate change
and from ABC Rural: Goyders line could shift to Clare
Many thanks to Luke Walker for alerting me to the story of Goyder’s Line.
Helen Mahar says
The first link, “Goyders line on the move …” with map states that Goyders line is at the 300mm (12″) average rainfall. That is correct. The second link, “Goyders line could shift to Clare” states that Goyders line is at the 250 mm average rainfall. That is incorrect, and factually sloppy. Destroys the credibility of the piece.
I think both pieces are spin. Surveying a small group of farmers who believe that climate change is happening – every farmer knows that climate varies – and presenting the results as future prediction is stretching it.
Goyder did a good job of identifying the boundary between agricultural and pastoral country. But the boundary is fuzzy. Soil types influence how far north of the line can be farmed. For example, the town of Kimba is well north of the line, but it has very good soils, so high quality hard wheats are grown north of Kimba. At Ceduna the soils are limestone and alkaline, so Goyder’s line is just about the boundary of farming.
Short growing season, dwarf crop varieties have greatly improved crop yields along the line. And the introduction of drought resistant, salt tolerant varieties will further improve. The plant breeders are not giving up because of “climate change” aka global warming.
All these predictions of coming doom and disaster by assorted experts reminds me of a neighbour, now deceased. He was forever anticpating disaster – with shining eyes.
Pirate Pete says
I walked a lot of the country around Goyder’s line. You can still see a few of the stone remnants of the abandoned houses.
Goyder did the best he could, and it was a good idea. But he only had a relatively short time base to estimate where the line should be. I always thought it was the 10″ line, but the Wikipedia entry says it is the 12″ line.
Unfortunately, global population keeps growing. Anticipated 30% growth to 8 billion. Only 5% more arable land available on planet earth.
Technology is the only solution.
Population earth only has to stick it out for a while, till we step into the next ice age.
It is interesting to observe that we are talking about potential disaster in southern Australia, when we are able to simultaneously ignore widespread drought, famine, and death in large areas of Africa. NIMBY mentality.
Helen thanks for expert local knowledge.
Wiki also goes for 254 mm not 300?
But looking at http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/cgi_bin_scripts/annual-monthly-rainfall.cgi Helen is correct.
Interesting account here: http://www.southaustralianhistory.com.au/goyder.htm which says in part:
When pastoralists complained during the severe drought of 1863 -1866, Goyder went north to reassess their properties. The first eighteen valuations carried out by Goyder were published in the Adelaide Express in September 1864. His line of travel, which amounted to nearly 5,000 km on horseback, marked off the line of drought and became known as Goyder’s Line of Rainfall. He drew a line indicating the limit of the rainfall which coincided with the southern boundary of saltbush country. It separated lands suitable for agriculture from those fit for pastoral use only. It also marked areas of reliable and unreliable annual rainfall. Not all agreed with his Line and some even called it Goyder’s line of foolery.
When agricultural land became scarce, combined with good seasons and crops during the early 1870s, and the expected income of land sales, it persuaded the government to disregard the Line and allow farmers to buy land north of the Line. The government even surveyed towns in that area such as Hammond, Bruce, Cradock, Gordon, Johnburgh, Wilson, Carrieton, Chapmanton, Farina, Amyton and several others. Poor seasons in the 1880s proved Goyder right, and farmers slowly moved back south of his Line.
Helen is there a “line” that demarks cropping between seasons or is much more random in pattern ?
SA av rainfall map http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/averages/climatology/rainfall/hires_rn/sa/rnsaan.png
SA 2007 rainfall map ftp://ftp.bom.gov.au/anon/home/ncc/www/rainfall/totals/12month/colour/latest.sa.gif
From the above it seems to me that over time the Goyder line is pretty consistent, which is much what the SARDI man said;
“but the much more likely outcome was to bounce around roughly where it was or to move north of Jamestown”
Helen great local knowledge of an area I have only visited once, put the theory into practice.
to return the favour from rog on the rainfall map, have a look at Tassie (3m on the West coast) at http://www.tca.org.au/Home%20Page%20Documents/Tasmanian%20Water%20Issues.pdf slide one.
I wonder where Tassie’s Goyders line would be!
Goyder’s Line could, may, possibly, conceivably, not impossible, feasibly, weather permitting, shift as far as Clare.
Can’t the good people at SARDI and CSIRO find a more productive activity that they could be getting on with like organizing the tea roster or the Melbourne Cup sweep or annual Christmas party?
The BoM Timeseries shows no obvious trend for rainfall S.A.for the past 100 years.
Try looking at spatial maps on the same site. Time series are usless when you have drier and wetter areas averaging out !
Nexus 6 says
I was up at Melrose (pretty much right on the Goyder line) over the long weekend. While there’s still plenty of wheat, barley and canola etc. just to the south, the crops, not surprisingly, aren’t looking too flash. Will also be interesting to see how the fledgling Southern Flinders wine region goes. They’re producing some wine that doesn’t completely suck now (I’ve got a nice bottle of Bundaleer 2005 Shiraz stashed away).
Malcolm Hill says
“Try looking at spatial maps on the same site. Time series are usless when you have drier and wetter areas averaging out”
It would depend upon the spatial coverage of the time series being used, and the application of the time series data.
It is still a valid comment for Chrisgo to make.
Interesting how times change. Last time I was at this blog both Wikipedia and AGW were considered entirely dubious beasts. There reps are on the improve I see. But other than that I see the old guard are still here butting heads like so many rutting moose.
I wonder if you can irrigate those crops with water from denial? Oh yeah, that’s in Egypt, damn.
“Try looking at spatial maps on the same site. Time series are usless when you have drier and wetter areas averaging out !” Posted by: Luke at October 10, 2007 08:11 AM.
Sure there are winners and losers.
The Trend Map for S.A. for 1900-2006 (the longest time available and therefore most indicative of any trend) ) indicates that any rainfall deficit over the long term is confined to the Eyre and Yorke peninsula sand south of Meningie and it is minimal.
“the Eyre and Yorke peninsula sand”….Freudian slip
And where do they grow the wheat and grapes in SA?
And actually 1900-2006 is not necessarily the best as it depends when the trend “influence” starts. I guess all those Exceptional Circumstances submissions from SA in recent years musn’t be all that exceptional or …
Wonder what the growers think?
Nexus 6 says
“And where do they grow the wheat and grapes in SA?”
They don’t grow many grapes at all on Eyre and Yorke peninsulas. The Clare is to the north of Adelaide, Barossa to the north east, McLaren Vale to the south and Coonawarra to the East. They do, however, grow a good deal of wheat and barley on the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas (they’re the two to the west of Adelaide).
Yes indeed Nexy – so I’m suggesting these areas are receiving less rainfall as time goes on – from BoM’s SERIES of spatial maps.
http://www.nams.gov.au/index.cfm?fa=analyses.show&dataType=analysis&analyses=1&mainCategories=17&subCategories=1&analysesList=1&showWeather=false&showSilo=false&showSurfaceWater=false&showGroundWater=false&showDam=false&showdates=false shows the cropping and horticulture areas well.
Latest drought report here: http://www.nams.gov.au/index.cfm?fa=report.viewReport&nationalReport=1
Helen Mahar says
A few more comments on Goyders Line. South Australia has been a planned State from the beginning. Land was surveyed and sold or leased to farmers / pastoralists. As the population grew, political pressure ensured that the more marginal areas were surveyed and sold for farming, especially in the late 19th Century. Unfortunately the central planners had little idea of how much land was needed to support family farms in these areas.
Over the 20th Century amalgamations of failed holdings resulted in more viable properties. At one stage we held 10 original holdings, about average for properties along the 300mm rainfall average. Aside from the tremendous human cost this represents, it is an indictment on the assumptions of central planners.
Goyder did a good job of identifying the limits of wheat growing. Mostly by observing the distribution of native vegetation patterns to establish the limits of pastoralism. Rainfall records available since have fine-tuned his observations.
Only about 20% of South Australia is suitable for growing crops, and most of that area has a Mediterranean climate. Cool wet winters, hot dry summers. A winter-only growing season. Average annual rainfall is not as important as effective growing season rainfall, from April to September.
The major winter rains come from the westerly systems which migrate north in winter. Their influence is strongest in the south of the state, and tends to decrease further north, with very little impact on Central Australia. Northern Australia depends upon summer monsoons which generally weaken as they extend into central Australia. Occasionally they extend to the southern coastline. These summer rains have very little agricultural value as they are outside the normal growing season.
But they are very important for the grazing country identified by Goyders line as the perennial chenopod grazing species (saltbushes and bluebush) are adapted to respond to rainfall whenever it happens.
So filling out on a point above, I feel that charting effective rainfall would be a better indicator of the limits of wheat growing than the 300 mm line. We have found that a minimum of 150 mm effective rainfall – optimally spaced – is needed to grow a modest wheat crops
Farmers and businesses in drought affected areas have enough on their minds (suicide is a growing problem) without further undermining their morale with purely speculative, idle statements like “by 2070 climate change would override any technology improvement” (Dr Hayman SARDI).
Droughts come and go and my point is that this one will eventually become history.
Whether the “1900-2006 is not necessarily the best as it depends when the trend ‘influence’ starts” (Posted by Luke at October 10, 2007 01:33 PM) assumes there is some aforementioned “influence”.
Come on chrisgo there’s plenty of evidence to support changes – i.e. SAM, El Nino, warming ocean temperatures, warming terrstrial temperatures. Jeez !
And so if people are driven to suicide it doesn’t sound very “self reliant” and stable does it.
Reality is that a lot of southern Australia has had double its share of Exceptional Circumstances funding so shouldn’t need anymore now for 100 years. Yea – sure !! We’re getting to the point of bailing out agriculture every few years – does that sound normal?
So if droughts come and go why isn’t rural industry adapted and used to it?
Sure, it’s warmer than it was in 1900.
Everyone knows that.
Your other comments, I won’t touch.
Just about all of SA is drought declared, Goyder or not!
I was not aware of the conflict between early Conservator of SA Forests John Brown and Mr Goyder that the line is named after until doing some research on why present day South Australians would think that sustainable timber harvesting is akin to forest destruction.
The conservator was a title in the late 19th century used in the British Empire including SA for the forest scientist put in charge to conserve the forest for timber production and other values, to prevent needless tree clearing and to encourage sustainable management.
The Conservator clashed with Mr. George Goyder, the Chairman of the Forestry Board, on whether trees increased local precipitation. His efforts to plant up the plains north of Quorn to increase rainfall were publicly supported but strongly opposed by Goyder who was trying to confine agricultural development south of Goyder’s Line.
Information about the early conservator and the issues confronting the industry can be found in the history pages of Forestry SA. http://www.forestry.sa.gov.au/conservators.stm
Paul Williams says
Thanks for that link to Tassie rainfall, cinders. It adds weight to my preferred position on adapting to global warming; namely, keep on burning coal as cheaply as we can until mainland Australia is rendered unfit for human habitation by global warming, then transfer the entire population over to Tasmania, preferably in bark canoes (that’s if there is any bark left).
What do you think? There has to be room for 50 million down there.
Helen Mahar says
Going to take a while Paul. Research on drought tolerant varieties has ramped up since this global warming thing began. Of course, correlation is not causation, but it is conveniently co-incidental. With the rate of research going on, we will either hold Goyders line, or extend it, depending in if the world is really heating up. Time will tell.
Besides, some of us desert dwellers prefer heat to cold, and might be a bit hard to shift.
sue murray says
please could you send me the link or pics themselves of the houses being buried by sand dunes…i would like to research this as part of an ongoing artwork re landscape and environment…
i am an artist