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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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Learning to Forecast, January-July 1943 (continued)

Doug Forder was a splendid teacher, the basis of his skills resting on fine scholarship in the scientific field derived from his tertiary education at the University of Adelaide. His excellence was proof of the perceptiveness of the senior personnel at the Weather Bureau who chose him for the task. When I first met him in March 1943 he could only have been involved in meteorology for about three years. I am not sure what field experience he had, but he had certainly been at the section at Pearce RAAF base in Western Australia, and he was in Singapore by late 1941 along with Keith Hannay, who has told in Metarch Papers No 6 of their escape from Singapore after the Japanese invasion. Apart from Forder's considerable knowledge of contemporary meteorological theory, particularly of air-mass and frontal analysis, and his excellence as a teacher, his advice about issuing forecasts to customers was sound, based on well-tried scientific method. Forecasting is essentially exploring the unknown, and he stressed that it must be preceded by gaining a firm grasp of past weather. I recall him being adamant that we plot the information from periodic observations immediately upon receipt, then determining the qualities of the air-mass over the area for forecast, and in particular tracing the history of that air-mass over the past two or three days. He stressed, too, that we should become familiar with the topography of the routes for which we issued forecasts so that we would readily distinguish particular local phenomena, particularly the local incidence of mist and fog. And he counselled us to be definite in our forecasts and not equivocal, covering our tracks with vague expressions. While I sometimes made minor mistakes, I believe my definite statements were appreciated by aircrews and commercial pilots. I vividly recall briefing aircrews at Nadzab for a strike over Wewak in April 1944, when I made the definite statement that there would be almost complete coverage of the sky by stratocumulus cloud with a base of 3,500–4,000 feet. Before take-off the flight commander said to me aggressively that I could not possibly be so certain, but I stuck to what I had said, and proved to be correct. Over the intervening years I have reflected on how important it was that I got it right in that first briefing, because my flying friends were very charitable after that with my minor mistakes.

On a more personal note, I must record my indebtedness to Doug Forder for giving me confidence in myself. After the course ended I had two short Melbourne postings during which I spent some time with him and his wife. We discovered that all three of us were singers, and they prevailed on me to sing in a suburban Methodist choir to which they belonged. At that time I suffered from an inferiority complex about my academic performance, and I believe I said to him over dinner one night that I was amazed that I had performed so well at his course. He remonstrated with me then, and later, convincing me that I should not be in awe of my two younger brothers, both by then RAAF specialist officers, who had already achieved very good degrees in Science and Dentistry respectively from the University of Sydney. He convinced me that my heredity was the same as theirs, which was a priceless assurance for my future studies and career. It is my great regret that our paths never crossed after I left Melbourne for New Guinea in September 1943, except in one or two telephone conversations from Charleville in April 1945.

People in Bright Sparcs - Forder, Douglas Highmoor (Doug); Hannay, Alexander Keith (Keith); 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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