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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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Evaluating the Service

The RAAF Meteorological Service, while well integrated into the RAAF, was in some ways a law unto itself. The specialised tasks, particularly forecasting, could only be performed by professionals. I could not be replaced by my dental surgeon brother, for instance, any more than I could assume his specialised professional tasks. For that reason forecasting officers did not apply for four days leave every three months as did other RAAF officers, but took three weeks annually when the Director of the service could send someone to relieve, as I had done at Charleville early in 1945. Observers, who were all non-commissioned, were encouraged to assist with plotting observations and drawing isobaric charts, but could not be expected to issue forecasts, a task for which they had not been trained. On the other hand, the forecaster could always take the regular observations.

The Training Section of the Weather Bureau met the challenge of the war very effectively, and was most fortunate in its instructors, as I have already noted. The proliferation of both RAAF stations and their weather offices created an urgent demand for trained staff. Joyce, in Metarch Papers No 5, provides a list of forecasting officers at 1 January 1945 from which I can distinguish some omissions, but the count must have been about 190, most of whom would have been wartime personnel.

So far as I could judge, there were adequate supplies of specialised equipment. The instruments we were trained to use were all available in the meteorological sections in which I worked in Australia and New Guinea, except when I was for several months in 1944 a lone mobile forecaster along the northern coast of New Guinea. Of course I was never quite alone because my American counterparts were generous with their facilities; I had been trained speedily but effectively; and although Neil McRae presented me with a great challenge at the time, he also said he was confident I could accomplish the task. In the fully staffed sections there was some development of new instruments, the particular example being the introduction of radiosonde equipment in 1943. Shortly after hostilities ceased, some radar aids were developed for identifying wind direction and speed in upper levels of the atmosphere under most weather conditions. I had no experience of this, but one of the last tasks my radar officer brother David performed before his discharge was to install the specialised equipment at strategic locations around Australia.

People in Bright Sparcs - Joyce, John; McRae, John Neil; 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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