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Table of Contents

Memories of the Bureau, 1946 to 1962



J. W. Zillman Director of Meteorology
The Seven Stages in the Life and Career of Dr W. J. Gibbs
The Meteorological Legacy of Dr Gibbs
Dr Gibb's Career—An Appreciation


Chapter 1: The Warren Years, 1946 to 1950

Chapter 2: International Meteorology

Chapter 3: The Timcke Years, 1950 to 1955

Chapter 4: A Year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chapter 5: The Dwyer Years, 1955 to 1962

Chapter 6: A Springboard for the Future

Appendix 1: References

Appendix 2: Reports, Papers, Manuscripts

Appendix 3: Milestones

Appendix 4: Acknowledgements

Appendix 5: Summary by H. N. Warren of the Operation of the Meteorological Section of Allied Air Headquarters, Brisbane, 1942–45



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Atmospheric Chemistry

During the late 1960s, in tandem with his national initiatives on the application of meteorology to air pollution management, Bill became one of the strongest proponents for the developing WMO program in atmospheric chemistry, particularly the establishment of the WMO Background Air Pollution Monitoring Network, later to become the Global Atmosphere Watch. In Australia, he joined forces with the late Dr C. H. B. (Bill) Priestley to champion the establishment of what is now the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station. Although his efforts to bring chemical meteorology into the mainstream were, to some extent, thwarted by the temporary removal of the baseline responsibility from the Bureau under the auspices of the then Departmental Secretary, Sir Hugh Ennor, Bill's early recognition of the importance of the field played a key role in its subsequent development as an area of Australian leadership on the international scene.


It was Bill's lot to become involved in the scientific debate on rainmaking at its most controversial stage in Australia and internationally. In an aggressively pro-rainmaking scientific environment, he stood up strongly against the excessive claims of the proponents of weather modification and especially against their support with dubious science. Although not the only time during his career when his uncompromising stance saw the Bureau cast as an overly conservative influence in the scientific community, it is probably true to say that subsequent developments in the science of weather modification made this also the outstanding example of the eventual vindication of his position on controversial scientific issues.

Tropical Cyclones

Bill came face to face with the challenge of tropical cyclone forecasting several times during his career. His key role in the international symposium in Brisbane in 1956 and his recognition of the special potential of radar and meteorological satellite tracking of tropical cyclones in the Australian region provided the foundation for his sustained efforts throughout his period as Director to create an Australian tropical cyclone warning system and service that was second to none in the world. Following the lessons learned from the devastating impact of Cyclones Ada and Althea in Queensland, he found himself as principal public spokesman for the outstanding role played by the Darwin Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in what probably remains Australia's best-known natural disaster, the destruction of Darwin by Tropical Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. His account of Regional Director Ray Wilkie's role in that event as 'A day in the life of a Meteorologist' ranks as one of the most compelling human stories of the role of the meteorologist in the warning situation. The present generation of world-recognised Australian tropical cyclone experts stand, in many respects, as the legacy of Bill's career-long commitment to the Australian tropical cyclone warning system.

People in Bright Sparcs - Ennor, Arnold Hughes; Gibbs, William James (Bill); Priestley, Charles Henry Brian (Bill)

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Gibbs, W. J. 1999 'A Very Special Family: Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1946 to 1962', Metarch Papers, No. 13 May 1999, 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