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Table of Contents

Memories of the Bureau, 1946 to 1962





Chapter 1: The Warren Years, 1946 to 1950

Chapter 2: International Meteorology

Chapter 3: The Timcke Years, 1950 to 1955
A Period of Consolidation
Aviation Services
Services for the General Public
Rockets and Atomic Weapons
Instruments and Observations
Climate and Statistics
International Activities
Central Analysis and Development
The Universities
The Meteorology Act
Achievements of the Timcke Years

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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Rockets and Atomic Weapons (continued)

In 1950 the British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, consulted his Australian counterpart, R. G. Menzies, to seek agreement to holding atomic weapons tests in Australia. The discussions were classified top secret and the only other participants were the Australian Minister for Defence and the Treasurer. Menzies did not consult other members of Cabinet before agreeing that the test should be held in the Monte Bello Islands near the coast of Western Australia. A survey of the Islands (Operation Epicure) was conducted in 1950. Sir William Penney (later Lord Penney) visited Emu Field in Dingo Claypan before the explosion of Operation Hurricane to assess its suitability for later nuclear weapons tests. He obviously considered that the tests would extend over a number of years.

Major tests conducted in the Timcke years, with their yield given as the estimated force of the explosion in kilotons of tri-nitro-toluene (TNT), were:
Hurricane25Monte Bello Islands3 October 19520800 WAST
Totem 19.1Emu Field15 October 19530700 CST
Totem 27.1Emu Field27 October 19530700 CST

The report of the Royal Commission states that 45 percent of the explosive force creates blast and shock waves, 35 percent thermal radiation, 5 percent initial nuclear radiation and 15 percent residual radiation. The nuclear explosion generates a fireball which rises in the atmosphere with dust disturbed on the ground below rising upward.

The explosion would cause death, injury or damage to people and the environment for some distance from the blast and the nuclear radiation near the point of the explosion and in the fireball would cause death or injury to those receiving a radiation dose of sufficient strength.

The strength of the explosion, the temperature and humidity structure of the atmosphere and upper winds would determine the height to which the atomic cloud containing radioactive nuclear material would rise and the upper winds would determine the pattern of any fallout on the ground. Rain falling from the radioactive cloud would tend to transport radioactivity to the ground.

It is obvious that there would be risk from proximity to the site of the explosion, from penetration of the cloud or from proximity to the fallout.

It is equally obvious that a forecast of the intensity of the explosion and the structure of the atmosphere would be important in estimating the risk of injury of those involved in the test, likely to visit the site, penetrate the cloud or experience the fallout.

People in Bright Sparcs - Timcke, Edward Waldemar

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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
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