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Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology


Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1929–1946 by Allan Cornish

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

Four Years in the RAAF Meteorological Service by Keith Swan
Enlistment in the RAAF, July 1941
Meteorological Observer Training, January-April 1942
Meteorological Observer, May-December 1942
Learning to Forecast, January-July 1943
Forecasting in Victoria, July-October 1943
Tropical Forecasting in New Guinea, October 1943-February 1945
Temperate East Coast Forecasting, February 1945-January 1946
Evaluating the Service

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


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Meteorological Observer Training, January-April 1942 (continued)

There were 28 members of the class, several of us schoolteachers who had some background for learning and study. While the main aim of the course was to prepare us for effectively performing the tasks of a meteorological observer we were given opportunity to extend our understanding of weather phenomena. Many of the tasks were simple—the effective reading of temperature from thermometers and of pressure from the barometer; following a pilot balloon with a special theodolite as the balloon rose at an assumed rate of ascent and using a slide rule to calculate the speed and direction of the wind at various levels until the balloon either burst or entered cloud; and the preparation of three-hourly observations according to the international code. We were trained to identify cloud types, to estimate cloudbase and extent of coverage of the sky, and to estimate visibility as a measure of the transparency of the atmosphere at the time of observation. Promptly on completion of the observation, the information was sent by Morse signal or teleprinter to various weather stations around Australia, where the information was plotted on charts; and effective forecasters tried to complete their isobaric maps within 90 minutes of the observations having been completed. Such was not the task of the observer, but the inquiring ones of us soon liked to try the drawing of the isobars and the interpretation of the chart. All of this proceeded in concentrated fashion for more than three months, when we were posted to weather stations around Australia, mainly on aerodromes.

It was an effective course, for most of us performed effectively in the field. The commissioned officers instructing, George Elston and Reg Harrison, were experienced schoolteachers, and Warrant Officer Pat Allender was an experienced permanent meteorological observer. Some trainees found learning the numbers assigned to reporting stations tiresome, but I lapped it up because I had an excellent memory for numbers, developed earlier by my primary schoolteacher who encouraged me to memorise the dates of historical events. I have not used the numbers of reporting stations now for almost 50 years, but I believe the numbers for Richmond and Wagga Wagga were 325 and 307 respectively. Another good start for me was the 'place' geography I had for primary school teaching, and the elementary physical geography of my junior secondary schooling.

People in Bright Sparcs - Swan, Keith

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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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