Rainfall, temperature, and solar radiation are important climate factors, which determine crop growth, development and yield from instantaneous to decadal scales. We propose to identify year patterns of climate impact on yield on the basis of rain and non-rain weather. There are inter-related impacts of climatic factors on crop production within a specific pattern. Historical wheat yield data in Queensland during 1889–2004 were used. The influence of meteorological conditions on wheat yields was derived from statistical yield data which were detrended by 9-year-smoothing averages to remove the effects of technological improvements on wheat yields over time. Climate affects crop growth and development differently over different growth stages. Therefore, we considered the climate effects at both vegetative and reproductive stages (before and after flowering date, respectively) on yield. Cluster analysis was employed to identify the year patterns of climate impact. Five patterns were significantly classified. Precipitation during the vegetative stage was the dominant and beneficial factor for wheat yields while increasing maximum temperature had a negative influence. Crop yields were strongly dependent on solar radiation under normal rainfall conditions. As the effect of rainfall on soil water is relatively long-lasting, its beneficial effect in vegetative stage was higher than its effect during the reproductive stage. The Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) was evaluated using long-term historical data to determine whether the model could reasonably simulate effects of climate factors for each year pattern. The model provided good estimates of wheat yield when conditions resulted in medium yield levels, however, in extremely low or high yield years, corresponding to extremely low or high precipitation in the vegetative stage, the model tended to underestimate or overestimate. Under high growing season precipitation, simulations responded more favourably to reproductive stage rainfall than measured yields.