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Table of Contents

Australian Meteorology through the 20th Century


The Origins of Australian Meteorology

Meteorology in the 20th Century
The Forecast for the First Parliament
The Meteorology Act 1906
The Birth of the Bureau
The Early Years
Meteorological Services for Civil Aviation
Meteorology at the Universities
The RAAF Meteorological Service
CSIR Meteorological Physics
The Meteorology Act 1955
Flood Warning
Long-range Forecasting
World Meteorological Centre, Melbourne
Regional Forecasting Centres
Global Weather Experiment
Research in the Bureau
Committees of Inquiry

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

The Meteorology Act 1955

One of the main purposes of the Meteorology Act 1906 had been to provide the legislative basis for the appointment of the Commonwealth Meteorologist and authority for negotiations on transfer of the State meteorological observatories to the Commonwealth. The title of Commonwealth Meteorologist had unofficially been changed to Director of Meteorology in the 1930s and, although widely known as the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, no such title had been included in the original Act. By the early 1950s, especially following the establishment of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as a specialised agency of the United Nations in 1950, the Meteorology Act had become seriously out of date. In December 1954, the Government decided on its repeal and replacement by a new Act defining the purpose and functions of the Bureau in line with the requirements of the WMO and contemporary practices in other countries.

The Bill for the new Act was introduced into the House of Representatives on 21 April 1955 by the Minister for the Interior, the Hon Wilfred Kent-Hughes. It received strong bipartisan support with special mention made of the need for improved fire, cyclone and flood warning, expanded observation networks and locally based forecasting services. The Bureau was also urged to pursue research into long-range forecasting. The Act was assented to on 23 May. It became the basis for a significant reorganisation of the Bureau under the incoming Director of Meteorology, L. J. Dwyer, who had been appointed on the retirement of E. W. Timcke on 1 April 1955. The new Act established the office of Director of Meteorology and the statutory basis for the operation of the Bureau, which continued to be staffed under the Public Service Act as an outrider to the Department of the Interior.

Flood Warning

Following widespread pressure for upgraded flood warning services in the wake of the disastrous Hunter floods of 1955, and realisation that the Premiers' Conference agreement of 1936 that the Bureau should assume national responsibility for flood warning had not been explicitly reflected in the new Act, the Government decided, in April 1957, that the Bureau should establish a hydrometeorological service to serve as the national authority for hydrological and water resources data collection, provision of hydrometeorological advice and flood warning.

An extensive program of upgrading of flood warning arrangements commenced in the early 1960s but, following the report of the 1976 Committee of Inquiry into the Bureau of Meteorology (CIBM), a hiatus developed in the early 1980s until new collaborative Commonwealth-State-local government arrangements were finally put in place in 1987 under the auspices of State Flood Warning Consultative Committees.

Long-range Forecasting

Australian farmers have always had an insatiable appetite for long-range weather forecasts and, for many years, the late Inigo Jones, who had worked under Clement Wragge in Brisbane, provided seasonal forecasts from his privately operated Crohamhurst Observatory in southeast Queensland. Despite two Ministerially commissioned investigations which concluded that his forecasting methods had no scientific basis, the demand for his forecasts remained and after his death the service continued under Lennox Walker. Through the 1950s and 60s, Bureau, CSIRO and university scientists and several private individuals continued to experiment with long-range forecasting, but it was not until scientists gained a better understanding of the influence of the ocean and the mechanisms of the El Niņo and the Southern Oscillation in the 1970s and 80s that some forecasting skill emerged. During the 1990s, through the work of the Bureau's National Climate Centre and other groups including the Queensland Centre for Climate Applications, Australian scientists have emerged as world leaders in the preparation of seasonal outlooks and their practical application to agriculture and other important economic sectors.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - National Climate Centre

People in Bright Sparcs - Dwyer, Leonard Joseph; Jones, Inigo Owen; Timcke, Edward Waldemar; Walker, Robert Lennox; Wragge, Clement Lindley

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© Online Edition Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre and Bureau of Meteorology 2001
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