Page 753
Previous/Next Page
Federation and MeteorologyBureau of Meteorology
Table of Contents

History of Research in the Bureau of Meteorology




Chapter 1: Germination and Growth
The First Three Decades
A Time of Rapid Growth

Chapter 2: Struggle, Competition and Emergence

Appendix 1: Meteorology Act 1906

Appendix 2: Meteorology Act 1955

Appendix 3: Simpson Report

Appendix 4: Survey Questionnaire

Appendix 5: Bibliography



Contact us
The Beginnings of a Scientific Research Program (continued)

Despite Kidson's work on the Polar Front theory, a number of years elapsed before this method of analysis was universally adopted within the Bureau. Indeed, Watt wrote to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior on 29 April 1935, apparently casting doubt on Bjerknes' theory but, nevertheless, stating that air mass analysis was being undertaken in the Bureau at that time (Evans [27]). And Gibbs [31] was still able to report that, in 1939, none of the synoptic charts in the Sydney office contained any frontal analysis, even though he had studied the new theory at university. In the meantime, the forecasting work went on as usual, being based on the individual analyst's skill and understanding of the situation, plus any theoretical understanding the forecaster may or may not have possessed. This often led to heated arguments as to whose opinion should prevail, particularly between the younger science graduates and the older hands, who had been trained on the job (Mackey [54]).

It seems that Bureau staff were not alone in their conservatism, as meteorological services around the world were nearly all still wedded to the empirical methods of the late 19th century (Ashford [1], Fuller [29]). The sole exceptions were the Swedish and Norwegian forecasters, who had recently adopted Bjerknes' scheme of analysis (Friedman [28]).

By this time, Hunt had developed a keen interest in seasonal forecasting and had formed his own ideas based on a four-year cycle (Mackey [54]). In order to investigate this theory, he had a glass water tank set up in one of the offices. This had a map of Australia drawn on the base and a powerful light bulb placed under the centre of the continent to mimic the solar heating effect. Two staff were put to work dropping pieces of indelible pencil into the water and observing the convective currents over long periods of time (Mackey [54], Cornish in a personal communication). Unfortunately for Hunt, the theory failed to gain any support and has since faded into obscurity.

People in Bright Sparcs - Cornish, Allan William; Gibbs, William James (Bill); Hunt, Henry Ambrose ; Kidson, Edward; Watt, William Shand

Previous Page Bureau of Meteorology Next Page

Gardner, J. 1997 'Stormy Weather: A History of Research in the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 11 December 1997, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher