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Publications archive - Annual reports

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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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 Services

Objective

To contribute effectively, through the development and provision of meteorological and related services, to reduction of the social and economic impact of natural disasters; economic development and prosperity of industry; safety of life and property; national security; preservation and enhancement of the quality of the environment; community health, recreation and quality of life; and efficient planning, management and operation of government and community affairs.

Result

The Bureau's meteorological and related services include weather services for the community at large, marine users, civil aviation, defence and for primary, secondary and tertiary industry; climate services including archived climate data, climate monitoring and prediction; consultative services including the provision of meteorological advice and the conduct of special investigations; hydrological services including national water resources assessment, national flood warning services and the provision of hydrometeorological advice; and oceanographic services for both coastal waters and the open ocean.

Weather Services

The Bureau's weather services continued to be made available to the Australian community through the mass media, with services increasingly accessible via recorded telephone, marine high frequency radio, facsimile and internet systems.

Weather services encompass a wide range of forecast, warning and information services to the general public, national and international shipping and aviation, the Department of Defence and other users.

Services were provided mainly through the regional forecasting centres in the state capital cities and Darwin, and through the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre in Melbourne, with all these centres maintaining a 24-hour weather watch every day of the year. Weather services are also provided through 45 other service outlets - 43 throughout Australia and two at Australian bases in Antarctica.

The Bureau's offices in rural and remote areas continued to serve the needs of local communities through provision of high quality weather observations, with a complementary role in providing current weather information and a range of other services.

The quarterly user survey results, primarily measuring user attitudes in the metropolitan areas of Australia's capital cities, indicated a high level of user satisfaction with Bureau weather services. The accuracy of temperature forecasts has improved steadily over the past 30 years, most notably since the mid-1980s. This improvement is largely a reflection of improvements in the operational numerical models.

The Bureau's telephone weather and warning services were upgraded. The new automated telephone system processes more than 12 000 Bureau products per day and provides the latest Bureau observations, forecasts and warnings to any caller in Australia at any time. A significant contribution in support of fire-fighting activities, to ensure community safety and minimise the loss of life and property, was provided by the Bureau during the New South Wales 'Black Christmas' bushfires in 2001-02.

The Severe Weather Warning Service performed effectively during the year and contributed to a timely and well-organised community and emergency service response to severe weather situations. Public access to severe weather warnings improved significantly with the expansion of the suite of warnings available on 1300-prefix numbers. The services now cover tropical cyclone advices, severe thunderstorm warnings, warnings of damaging winds and fire weather warnings, as well as other warnings with safety of human life implications such as road weather warnings, flood warnings and coastal waters warnings. The services are available anywhere in Australia at any time for the cost of a local call.

The planning and operation of the tropical cyclone warning service continued to be closely linked to, and coordinated with, the State Emergency Services in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland to maximise the effectiveness of community preparedness and response. Nine tropical cyclones formed in the Australian region during the 2001-02 tropical cyclone season, of which two affected the Australian coastline. Effective cyclone warnings, together with a well-organised community response, ensured that the community was safely prepared and there was no loss of human life.

The effectiveness of the Bureau's public weather services to the community was enhanced through the continued efforts of the Bureau's National Media Graphics Unit and regional offices, working closely with newspapers in the preparation of graphical weather information pages for a range of daily and weekly publications.

In response to the increasing community risk of exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the Bureau's ultraviolet index forecast service was enhanced to provide single-value ultraviolet index forecasts for more than 170 regional towns via the Bureau's web site.

The Bureau's Aviation Weather Services continued to enhance the safety and efficiency of national and international aviation operations, including air traffic management. An extensive range of forecast products, weather information, warnings and briefings were delivered to serve the needs of more than 2450 individual operators.

The Bureau's Defence Weather Services were enhanced in response to the changing requirements of the Australian Defence Force. Product dissemination procedures were improved to make available a wide range of meteorological material, including text, satellite and radar imagery and computer model graphics, through a registered user area on the Bureau's web site, with a direct linkage into Defence intranet networks.

Climate Services

The Bureau of Meteorology's climate services are coordinated by the National Climate Centre and provided through the National Climate Centre, regional offices and field meteorological offices around Australia.

Climate services continued to be developed to meet the needs of the general public and specialist users for climate data and advice as well as, to the extent possible, prediction of climatic fluctuations and anomalies likely to affect agriculture and other sectors of the economy.

The integrity of the Bureau's climate archive was maintained and the accessibility of the data was extended through the development of interactive data access systems. The content of, and access to, metadata was improved, and through collaboration with National Archives Australia valuable records were electronically preserved and made more accessible.

The efficiency of data entry into the archive and the quality of the database continued to improve. Software systems were developed to manage new data types and higher frequency observations, and to make selected data more accessible to the community.

The range of climate products accessible through the Bureau's web site continued to be enhanced, with more than 250 000 climate monitoring and prediction products available for public dissemination. The information provided included rainfall and drought reviews, seasonal and annual climate summaries and El Niņo related monitoring and outlook information.

The National Climate Centre continued to generate new reference climate maps and other climate-related maps in response to the needs of the user community, particularly those with planning responsibilities in government, industry and agriculture.

Consultative Services

Consultative services were provided to government and private users on a public interest, cost recovery or commercial basis, as appropriate. Services included the provision of advice and the conduct of investigations involving the application of meteorology and related disciplines to fields such as agriculture, engineering, architecture, health, tourism, urban planning and design. Consultative services were provided to the finance sector, environmental management organisations, urban and building design groups, the energy industry and in support of sustainable development. Specific studies were completed for the Department of Defence, Australian Standards for Lightning Protection and for Fisheries Western Australia. User feedback indicated satisfaction with the standard and quality of the service provided.

Special weather services were provided on a commercial basis through the Bureau's Special Services Unit. The unit operates on the basis of competitive neutrality with the private sector and non-interference in the public-good functions of overseas National Meteorological Services. A range of highly effective specialised services was provided to the offshore oil and gas mining industries, the competitive energy market, the mining and manufacturing sector and the agricultural sector. All quality targets were met or exceeded and quantity targets were improved significantly over those achieved for 2000-01.

In recognition of the value of the services provided by the Special Services Unit, contracted support continued for the National Meteorological Services of Fiji and Bangladesh, and additional computing services were provided to the Malaysian Meteorological Service. The unit also commenced a major project to provide the Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources with upgraded infrastructure for meteorological services. Its acceptance and continued success on the international scene reflected the high standard of service provided by the unit.

Hydrological Services

The Bureau's hydrological services, which include water resources assessment, the provision of flood forecasting and warning services, and hydrological and hydrometeorological advice for design, depend heavily on the information collected through the Bureau's basic national meteorological observation networks. The Flood Warning Service also operates a special purpose network of rainfall and river level stations in cooperation with state and local government agencies.

Hydrological services were delivered predominantly through the regional offices of the Bureau, with overall coordination provided by the head office Hydrology Unit. Regional service delivery continued to benefit from close cooperation with state and territory water and emergency service authorities and local government agencies.

Within a wider aim of understanding future water availability, water resources work focused on assessment, design and development of data collection networks, development of information systems, and development of water management decision support tools. The Bureau participated in national and international activities to fulfil effectively the national and international components of the Water Resources Assessment Programme.

The ability of users to make improved water management decisions, by evaluating the impacts of climate variability and the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation phenomena, was enhanced through a collaborative project (the RAINMAN Streamflow-Runoff Project), which was funded by Land and Water Australia and completed in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and the University of Melbourne.

The Bureau of Meteorology Flood Warning Service contributed to community safety and well-being through the provision of effective and efficient flood warning services, in close cooperation with state, territory and local government agencies. The Bureau provides an essential part of what is referred to as the 'total flood warning service'.

Feedback on the Bureau's flood warning services revealed a high level of satisfaction with services in general during 2001-02. More than 85 per cent of respondents to user surveys were either satisfied or very satisfied with Bureau information provided for the protection of life and property.

The Hydrometeorological Advisory Service contributed to community safety and well-being through the provision of specialised hydrometeorological advice and products to the scientific and engineering communities for the safe design of a wide range of hydrological and other civil infrastructure, with a particular focus on credible advice about the long-term variability of rainfall.

The development of robust analysis techniques and the provision of pertinent hydrometeorological advice to planners was a major component of the Bureau's hydrometeorological services. Liaison and collaboration with state water agencies ensured the relevance of the developments and increased the likelihood that optimum use was made of the advice provided.