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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2001-02

Environment Australia, 2002
ISSN 1441-9335

Review of Performance - Outcome Two: Meteorology (continued)
Meteorological and Related Data and Products

Objective

To provide, operate and maintain the basic observation, communication and data processing systems necessary to maintain a round-the-clock nationwide weather watch and to meet present and future national and international needs for raw and processed meteorological and related data.

Result

The basic observational, communications and data processing systems that deliver meteorological and related data and products also provide the common foundation on which virtually all the research, services and international outputs of the Bureau depend.

The Bureau operates an efficient, integrated observations programme that is designed to meet the data requirements of its research and services outputs, as well as its other national and international commitments.

Particular emphasis is placed on ensuring that the data quality is maintained to the exacting levels required for the national climate record and to support their use as an essential basis for community planning and decision-making in support of the goals of sustainable development.

Observing Network

Automation was a key element of the strategy for improving the density, reliability and efficiency of the Bureau's observing network. The network extends throughout the Australian region, including territories in Antarctica and the Indian and Pacific oceans, using observational systems operated by Bureau staff, volunteers and contractors. Observations from this network are supplemented by data from automatic weather stations, drifting buoys, aircraft, ships, meteorological satellites and weather watch radars. In addition to the conventional meteorological variables, specialised data on radiation, ozone and other chemical constituents relating to the enhanced greenhouse effect and depletion of the ozone layer are also collected.

The surface synoptic network was enhanced with the installation of 23 automatic weather stations. Some of these were also fitted with automatic cloud-base and cloud-amount detectors to fulfil some of the cloud observation functions of a manual observing station. The cooperative network continued to be very important for ensuring a wide geographic coverage of the continent and the provision of valuable visual observations.

Marine Observations

The Bureau expanded or maintained the key elements of its marine observing network and collaborated with the UK, USA and a consortium of European national meteorological services to commence the first regular weather balloon releases from ships in the southern hemisphere. Twenty-six drifting buoys (11 Bureau-owned, 15 from other nations) were deployed and Australia benefited through the efforts of the national meteorological services of France and South Africa, who deployed additional buoys in the southern Indian Ocean.

Radiation and Baseline Air Pollution Monitoring

Australia's need for high quality radiation data was addressed through enhancement of the Bureau's radiation-monitoring network. In addition to equipment upgrades at six sites and installation of a spectral radiometer, on loan from the World Radiation Centre in Switzerland, at the Alice Springs monitoring station, a full suite of radiation measurements was commenced at Adelaide. The network monitors direct, diffuse and global solar and terrestrial exposure and spectral irradiance.

The Bureau contributed to maintaining a high level of community awareness about the ozone layer and the Antarctic ozone hole. Total ozone measurements were made on a regular basis using the Bureau's network of Dobson spectrophotometers and weekly observations of the vertical distribution of ozone were made using balloon-borne ozonesondes flown from Melbourne and Macquarie Island.

The Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station in north-western Tasmania continued to fulfil its responsibilities as one of a small number of strategically located global stations under the World Meteorological Organization's Global Atmosphere Watch. The station's core programmes contributed observations of important greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons and tropospheric ozone.

River- and Flood-related Observations

In response to continued demand for new and improved flood warning services, the number of river height stations accessed for telemetered data was expanded from 1667 to 1772, commensurate with plans agreed through the various state or territory flood warning consultative committees.

Satellites

Australia continued to benefit substantially from the operational meteorological satellite programmes of the European Union and countries such as Japan, China, and the USA. Japan's geostationary meteorological satellite GMS-5 continued to be the most important source of satellite data for the Bureau, although the satellite has been providing reduced observations since July 2001 as a result of gradual deterioration in its main instrument which provides full disk images of the earth. The Bureau finalised contingency plans to enable use of complementary satellite data to cover the possibility of early GMS-5 failure.

Delivery of satellite data and products to the Australian public was improved through further upgrades to the satellite component of the Bureau's web site, including the provision of online public access to archived satellite data.

Standards

The Bureau benchmarks its observation performance against the criteria, standards and methods set by the World Meteorological Organization for obtaining meteorological observations, with particular regard to recommendations of the Global Climate Observing System concerning the density and frequency of observations sufficient to enable large-scale long-term trends and changes in climate to be detected and monitored.

This year saw a continuation of the high percentage of scheduled observations performed on time and within prescribed accuracy limits within the surface, upper air and space-based networks. Performance targets were met or exceeded for the surface synoptic network, the space-based network and the atmosphere watch networks. However, the performance of upper air temperature and humidity observations and upper wind observations declined slightly over the year because of difficulties in staffing several remote observing stations.

Equipment Installation and Maintenance

The effective operation of the Bureau's extensive observation networks relies upon the satisfactory installation and maintenance of observation equipment and facilities within time and cost constraints. During 2001-02, all equipment installations that were not delayed by external influences were completed on time, within budget and to user requirements.

Equipment outages at high priority sites, including those critical for monitoring severe weather events such as tropical cyclones and for supporting aviation operations, were kept to a minimum and the average duration of significant outages of all major items of field equipment was within target. The overall performance of the automatic weather station network improved.

Radar Network

The effectiveness of the Bureau's radar network was improved through the installation of a new weather radar at Yarrawonga. In addition, the weather radars at Alice Springs and Woomera were upgraded, as were the remote weather balloon launching facility at Darwin Airport and the meteorological office at Alice Springs Airport.

The incidence of faults within the weather watch radar network, however, remained high, largely as a result of the increasing age of some of the equipment and the fact that many are in use 24 hours a day.

Communications

Effective and efficient operation of the Bureau's communication systems is essential for the timely and accurate transmission of meteorological observations, exchange of data and graphical information between Bureau offices, and dissemination of the Bureau's services such as forecasts, warnings and specialised products. During 2001-02, the functional capacity of critical communications systems was maintained at satisfactory levels.

The Bureau's web site was consistently within the top five weather information sites nationally and the increased demand for data and products was met effectively. Between August 2001 and June 2002, it was the most accessed government site in Australia.

Changing user and service requirements were addressed during the year through the implementation of selected new communications systems, including text-to-speech systems for weather and tropical warning services.

Computing

The ability of the computing infrastructure to meet the defined requirements of all Bureau operations is a critical component of the Bureau's overall efficiency and productivity. The central computing systems are an integral part of the operations of the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre and support the large-scale numerical modelling research in the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre. Distributed computing systems support other specialised facilities and programmes, including the Bureau's regional operations. Analysis of outage times for mission-critical computing systems showed that the systems were extremely reliable during the year with an overall availability for central and regional systems of greater that 99.5 per cent.

The joint Bureau of Meteorology-CSIRO High Performance Computing and Communications Centre continued to provide reliable and efficient high performance computing services in support of the operational and research needs of both organisations. The last phase of the current supercomputer strategy was successfully installed and accepted in 2001-02.

Improvements to the supercomputing network and data management facilities resulted in significant improvements to the sophistication and operational timeliness of the Bureau's suite of numerical weather forecasting models.

Analysis and Prediction

The Bureau met to a high standard its responsibilities to maintain a nationwide and regional weather watch and monitoring operation, through the integrated operation of the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre, the seven regional forecasting centres in the capital cities and the Townsville and Canberra meteorological offices. The National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre serves as the central hub of the Bureau's analysis and prediction operations, running the centralised operational numerical models and providing the meteorological and oceanographic analyses and forecast guidance products on which most of the Bureau's weather services are based.

Operational requirements for numerical guidance information, including the current or predicted conditions in the atmosphere or ocean, were met effectively through operational analysis and prediction systems. The overall performance of the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre and the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre in Darwin was assessed by 88 per cent of users as satisfactory or better.