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Australian Meteorology through the 20th Century


The Origins of Australian Meteorology
In the Beginning
Australia's Meteorological Pioneers
The Lead-up to Federation

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



Contact us

Australia's Meteorological Pioneers

The foundations of Australia's meteorological records were laid at Sydney Cove by Lieutenant William Dawes who built a small observatory there and commenced regular observations in September 1788 (McAfee 1981). While participating fully in local exploration and other aspects of the early life of the colony, Dawes maintained his observations with great dedication, often making readings up to six times per day, through until December 1791, shortly before he returned prematurely to England, having incurred the displeasure of the Governor for his refusal to participate in reprisal raids against the Aborigines.

Following Dawes' departure, the systematic collection of meteorological observations in the colony lapsed until the arrival of the soldier-scientist, Sir Thomas Brisbane, as Governor. He established an observatory at Parramatta where records were maintained from 1822 until 1826. The next systematic series of observations in the Sydney area was begun in 1832 by Commander Phillip Parker King, who had already, in 1822, published the first description of Australian climate On the maritime geography of Australia. These were maintained only until 1848. However, in 1858 continuous observations recommenced at the newly constructed Sydney Observatory on what is now known as Observatory Hill. Meteorological observations were also commenced at other locations in New South Wales, including at Port Macquarie (1840), and in Adelaide (1839), Brisbane (1840), Hobart (1841), Melbourne (1856) and Perth (1876).

The first thorough study of the Australian climate was published in 1859 by William Stanley Jevons, a gold assayer at the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint who was subsequently to make major contributions in the fields of logic, statistics and economics and who has been variously described as Australia's first social scientist and 'one of the greatest Englishmen of the nineteenth century'. Jevons' 52-page study of the climate of Australia and New Zealand covers the general characteristics of Australian temperature and rainfall and patterns of drought and flood. Among the achievements of his pioneering study, he correctly recognised the highly variable nature and spatial coherence of Australian rainfall (Nicholls 1998).

People in Bright Sparcs - Brisbane, Thomas Makdougall; Dawes, William; Jevons, William Stanley; King, Phillip Parker

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