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Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology


Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1929–1946 by Allan Cornish
Chapter 1: My Early Days in the Bureau
Chapter 2: Some New Vistas
Chapter 3: The RAAF Measures Upper Air Temperatures
Chapter 4: The Bureau Begins to Grow
Chapter 5: My Voyage in Discovery II
Chapter 6: The Birth of the Instrument Section
Chapter 7: Darwin Days
Chapter 8: I Leave the Bureau

History of Major Meteorological Installation in Australia from 1945 to 1981 by Reg Stout

Four Years in the RAAF Meteorological Service by Keith Swan

The Bureau of Meteorology in Papua New Guinea in the 1950s by Col Glendinning


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Chapter 1: My Early Days in the Bureau (continued)

The height of pilot balloons was calculated by assuming a rate of ascent determined from the free lift of the balloon and measuring the time after release with a stop watch. At levels above about 1,000 feet the assumed rate of ascent based on free lift was generally reliable. However, strong wind eddies around buildings affected the rate of ascent and gave spurious wind speeds at lower levels. Two methods were employed for alternative determination of rate of ascent (height of the balloon). The second alternative method was the use of 'tails' which were ribbons of cloth of known length suspended below the balloon. The range of the balloon could be calculated from a measurement on the theodolite of the angle subtended by the 'tail'.

Jack Hogan (1896–1970) taught me how to operate a theodolite. Tregenza and I did the theodolite observation and slide rule computation of winds together except when one of us was on the bulletin. What at first was considerably difficult with practice became almost automatic. A skilled observer could follow the balloon by theodolite and concurrently compute upper winds by slide rule as a solo effort. John Hogan (1896–1970) was an expert pilot balloon observer because of skill and long experience. He could make theodolite observations of the movement of cirrus cloud between theodolite observations of a pilot balloon. He would make a note of where the pilot balloon was, make observations of movement of cirrus cloud then return to observation of the pilot balloon. He would do all that during the flight of the pilot balloon.

Sometimes it would be possible to observe winds to sixty thousand feet using a pilot balloon as light as 10 grams. With such long flights commencing at 3.30pm it was often 5.30pm by the time the winds were calculated and the message sent to other offices by telegram. An experienced and skilful observer could have the slide rule calculations finished by the time the theodolite observation was finished, thus enabling the message to be sent earlier.

The pilot balloon network in the early 1930s included Melbourne, Sydney and, I think, Adelaide and Brisbane. Later, pilot balloon observations were made at Darwin when Walter Dwyer and Hutchinson were posted to that station with the establishment of the Empire air route between England and Australia. This had been developed after the original plans to develop a dirigible air service between England and Australia had collapsed when the English built airship R101 had crashed in France on its inaugural flight designed to demonstrate the feasibility of operating a regular air passenger service between England and Australia.

People in Bright Sparcs - Cornish, Allan William; Dwyer, Walter Anthony; Hogan, John

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Cornish, A., Stout, R., Swan, K and Glendinning, C. 1996 'Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology', Metarch Papers, No. 8 February 1996, Bureau of Meteorology

© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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