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Australian Meteorology through the 20th Century


The Origins of Australian Meteorology

Meteorology in the 20th Century

The Weather and Climate of the Twentieth Century

The Great Weather and Climate Events of the Twentieth Century

A Century of Progress in Science and Service


Australian Meteorological Milestones of the 20th Century



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A Hundred Years of Science and Service: Australian Meteorology through the 20th Century


Australia's weather and climate inspired the dreamtime legends of its first inhabitants and shaped its development as an infant nation. The violent thunder squalls which greeted the First Fleet as they rounded Van Dieman's Land provided a foretaste of worse to come, and the shipwrecks which soon littered the southern coastline reminded recent arrivals from Europe, if reminder were needed, of the ferocity of the storms which swept in without warning from the Southern Ocean. The extremely dry conditions in the early years at Sydney Cove (Tench 1789; Blainey 1980; Nicholls 1988) exacerbated the trauma of the starvation years (Hughes 1987). And the nineteenth century manifestations of what we now know as El Niņo and the Southern Oscillation soon brought the droughts and flooding rains that wrought great hardship on the early settlers and established, in prose and verse, the enduring images of the Australian bush.

Meteorology has a proud place in the early life of the colonies and the birth of the Federation. Australia's meteorological pioneers established observing networks throughout the length and breadth of the continent, and collected the data needed to map the climate of the interior and develop a scientific basis for forecasting of events as diverse as the southerly busters of the NSW coast and the monsoon rains and cyclones of the tropical north. Nothing mattered quite so much in the preparations for the opening of the first Federal Parliament in Melbourne as the timing of the arrival of the deep depression which threatened to add fierce wintery squalls and driving rain to the pageantry of the occasion.

That Parliament was subsequently to put in place the legislation which led to the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology by bringing together the separate colonial/State Meteorological Services that had existed up to that time, in an arrangement which has provided Australia with one of the most effective national meteorological service systems in the world. The remarkable advances that have occurred in the science and practice of meteorology through the twentieth century have greatly reduced the toll of natural disasters and brought enormous benefits to virtually all walks of life. They have laid the foundation for even greater benefits from meteorological science and services in the twenty-first century. The origins of Australian meteorology

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