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Site news 2004

Wednesday 22 December
A problem with wind run data

AWN has become aware of a problem with the 24 hour wind run data reported in the Daily Weather Summary and the Daily Climatic Data. Wind runs in excess of 1000km a day are not being reported. These occur occasionally at exposed coastal and mountain locations, and are being reported as a blank in the Bureau's climatic database.

The matter has been reported to the Bureau, which has found that its program for ingesting real time data from AWSs is not geared for ingesting 4 digits. Manned stations also report the daily wind run in their field books, and this is being correctly entered; so, for example, AWN's reports for Maatsuyker Island's phenomenally windy period of 11 to 18 September 2004 correctly shows daily wind runs in excess of 1000km peaking at 2056km on the 17th, but runs for Mt Wellington for the same period are blank. The Bureau's National Climate Centre is now working as a matter of priority to correct this situation.

Saturday 11 December
Major upgrade to AWN news/extremes

I've given the daily news/weather extremes pages a serious workover. This section, which has an archive back to 1996, is now called the National Daily Weather Summary. Each page contains a detailed review of the day's weather across the nation, including:

  • Surface weather charts
  • Hourly satellite images
  • Rain and temperature maps
  • Expanded observations for all major centres
  • Extremes of rainfall, temperature, sunshine and wind
  • 3-hourly observations for main centres, alpine centres and the day's noteworthy synoptic observations
  • Records broken

And, with most of that work now done, I can resume writing the regular descriptions of significant weather events. You can access the summary from the link at the top of this page.

Thursday 25 November
Major upgrade to AWN daily data pages

AWN's daily data information has had a makeover, with more data and better navigation now available. Data now includes evaporation, sunshine, daily wind run and maximum gust, grass minimum and soil temperatures and a handy daily weather summary along with the previous rainfall and maximum/minimum temperatures.

Navigation is improved with better map access, and the ability to have the data sorted by element (e.g. putting all the rainfall, sunshine, etc. observations together) or by station (so that all records for the same station are together).

Data is now sourced directly from the National Climate Centre, supplemented by previously used synoptic reports, so greater accuracy is available earlier. Data in the new format is available for the past few months -- the remaining months for the past year will be added progressively over the next few days.

To access the data, click on the Recent link above, or the Daily Data link on the Current menu.

Saturday 21 August
An unusual sound archive of the July 1965 NSW snowstorm

In tidying out my old reel-to-reel tapes, I came across a recording I made of the ABC radio news broadcast covering the major NSW snowstorm of July 1965. This bulletin was broadcast at 7pm Sunday 18 July 1965 and I've added mp3s of it to the Severe Weather > Snow page.

This sound clip gives a good feel for what was a most extraordinary event (and a reminder of how leisurely the news was in those days!) The 7pm ABC radio news was the major news bulletin of the day, and the NSW snow story headed both the national and state sections (separated by a "bing" to tell the regional stations to poke their local newsreaders into action.) The broadcast has been edited to remove non-snow stories from the national section -- in the state section, the snowstorm was the only news.

There are two versions: a larger high bitrate one (7.5mb) and a smaller low bitrate one (2.8mb).

Thursday 15 July
AWN Daily Data now available for a year

AWN's daily data sheets, which are accessed by the Recent link in the main menu above, are now available for the past year. This follows the Bureau's bold initiative in releasing recent climatic data into its Basic Product Set, making it available for secondary providers, such as AWN, to distribute in different formats.

AWN's version of the same Bureau data differs in that it is formatted to show all data for a month at all stations in a district, enabling comparisons across both time and location. The Bureau version excels in giving all the data for just one station. AWN also provides 24-hour rainfall data from the full reporting raingauge network rather than limiting it to the climatic stations. As with the Bureau's new service, data from past months will be periodically updated with quality controlled and late reports.

I am working on some further improvements to the Daily Data that should be available soon. These include the addition of sunshine, wind run, wind gust, soil temperature and evaporation data, and a better navigation system to allow easier movement across months.

Thursday 15 July
Additional site for upper air charts

Added to Current Weather on the Web > Charts > Upper Air Charts: Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic upper air charts from Australian Atmospheric Sounding Information. These charts are designed for soaring pilots and gives easy access to the latest upper air soundings and a 10-day archive. The diagrams are more like tephigrams than the usual Skew-T, and an additional panel shows predicted convection height. A detailed and very accessible help page explains how to read the diagrams and estimate convection height, cloudbase and winds. (15/07/04)

Wednesday 14 July
The great snowstorm of 1900

The legendary snowstorm of 5 July 1900 brought widespread snow to as low as 200m above sea level in central NSW. Over a metre of snow fell in areas around Bathurst, stopping trains and collapsing roofs. 25cm lay on the ground at Forbes, 55 at Mudgee and 90 at Carcoar, while a property north of Condobolin reported 8cm on the ground. Yet at the same time that Crookwell was reporting up to 75cm of level snow, Goulburn just 40km to the south was experiencing flood rainfall.

This extraordinary event has been examined by Bureau meteorologist Doug Shepherd, and a PDF copy of his report along with a contemporary report by H. C. Russell are now available on the Severe Weather > Snow page.

Wednesday 14 July
What produces the best snow on the NSW Snowy Mountains?

Another Bureau report of interest to snow-lovers is John Colquhoun's Snowfall on the NSW Snowy Mountains. This studies the synoptic situations that produce snowfalls across the Kosciuszko National Park. The report includes two case studies from 1974, looks at variations in the water content and density of the snowpack, and examines the relationship between the atmospheric circulation and precipitation in the area. A PDF copy is also available on the Severe Weather > Snow page.

Wednesday 14 July
Swellnet for long-range surf forecasts

Swellnet has been issuing regular surf reports and forecasts since early 2002. I've added it to Forecasts on the web > Marine: Swellnet -- Forecasts of surf conditions for QLD, NSW, VIC, SA and WA for the next five days issued Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Intelligent commentary links expected waves with the meteorological situation. (14/07/04)

Thursday 24 June
Bureau QLD flood reports now online
Added to Severe Weather > Floods: Detailed reports on notable floods in Queensland from the BoM. Currently from 1997 to date, but being extended back in time. Includes the notable 1974 Brisbane and Ipswich floods. (24/06/04)

Tuesday 22 June
New link to snowfield weather graphs
Added to Severe > Snow: Frequently updated Alpine Weather Observations from John Barratt uses graphs to monitor temperature, precipitation and estimated and measured snowfall at many resort stations. There is also a useful archive of webcam inages from ski.com.au. (22/06/04)

Friday 18 June
AWN launches Bureau Watch
The Bureau of Meteorology, as the country's national meteorological service, is fundamental to Australian weather. Its data collection, forecasting and scientific resources make it the most visible government agency to the entire population, a fact demonstrated by the premier rankings achieved by its website. From today, AWN starts a special column devoted to news and commentary on the Bureau's services.

Friday 18 June
Easier navigation for AWN charts and observations

Changes have been made to the navigation structures for the synoptic observations and state 10-minute observations pages, making them quicker to load and easier to switch between states and individual locations. The UTC time converter has been removed from the main Synoptic Charts page to a window of its own, making the charts selection page considerably faster to load.

Thursday 10 June
New snow link

Updated in Severe > Snow: Snow in Armidale NSW. Details of snowfalls since 1971 and the conditions required for snow in the area. Photos and a description of the significant July 1984 event. From Peter Burr at UNE. (10/06/04)

Thursday 27 May
Updated links

Updated in Severe > Drought: Detailed reports of the 2003 Drought.com workshop. Abstracts and papers from the Bureau of Meteorology and other interested parties give many useful drought resources. (29/05/04)
Added to Current weather on the Web > Observations: Hourly weather data for Australian Antarctic bases from the Bureau of Meteorology. (29/05/04)
Updated in Current weather on the Web > Observations: Antarctic Real Time Data from AMRC. (29/05/04)
Added to Current > Rain & Rivers > Queensland: Other useful resources.

Thursday 27 May
Updated links

Updated in Current > Charts:

  • S Africa to New Zealand - 1000mb analysis & surface plots by NWS for 00, 12z converted by Georg Mueller: small or large gif files (27/05/04)
  • New Zealand to South America - 1000mb analysis & surface plots by NWS for 00, 12z converted by Georg Mueller: small or large gif files. Together with the S Africa to New Zealand chart above, these give complete coverage of the southern hemisphere. (27/05/04)

Thursday 27 May
New 10-minute weather observations on AWN

AWN's current weather page now provides 10 minute observations for various locations around capital cities as well as many major regional centres.

These observations come from some of the most accurate, best maintained and best exposed instruments in the country, so I have taken the opportunity to format the readings to extract maximum benefit from the high definition both in time and accuracy.

  • Readings for each station for the past hour are given on each state page, allowing comparison across time and location
  • Significant wind, rainfall and temperature changes are highlighted using a graded colour-coding scheme
  • Clicking any location name takes you to that station's observations for the day since midnight, and a one-week archive
  • Extremes of average and gust wind, 10-minute rainfall, and highest and lowest temperature and humidity for the day since midnight are continuously tallied on the right side of each page, making it easy to visualise changes to the weather over time as well as to identify interesting short-term weather phenomena.
  • There's a help page to help you decipher it all!

The programs are in beta test, so if you spot any problems please let me know by using the feedback link at the top of this page. You can access the data by clicking the Current Weather link, then 10 Min obs.

Wednesday 26 May
Site updates

Updated entry under Severe > Snow: Snow reports, skicams and forecasts from Telstra/BigPond. The 24-hour weather station graphs are particularly useful, as are the NSW and VIC webcams. (26/05/04)
Corrected broken link under Severe > AWN Severe Weather Summaries to current severe weather synoptic and AWS reports.

Thursday 22 April
More frequent updates for some AWN products

Several AWN products that give national extremes, rainfall and maximum and minimum temperatures now update more frequently through the day. The State-by-state extremes and the Daily National Extremes summary page update hourly from 9.45am to 7.45pm while the national daily rain and temperature data updates more frequently to capture maximum and minimum temperatures and 24-hour rainfall as they are reported at 9am and 3pm across Australia's time zones.

Thursday 15 April
Updated VIC bushfire information site

Updated link on Severe Weather > Bushfires page:

Vic -- current operational and event news from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment: follow the Fire and other emergencies link. Good coverage of current, recent and historic bushfires back to 1851, together with useful items and case studies on the causes and management of bushfires. The Statewide Fire Situation Map on the Fires Today link, with its mouse-activated windows, packs a huge amount of detail into a simple, geographical format. (15/04/04)

Wednesday 14 April
Bureau Head Office moves

The Bureau of Meteorology is in the process of moving its Melbourne national and state offices from its long-time 150 Lonsdale Street address to a new building at 700 Collins Street. The computer nerve centre of the Bureau's operations is expected to switch over to the new location next Monday, 19 April. Details of the new building are given on the Bureau's website.

Tuesday 13 April
AWN hourly observations now report visibility

An increasing number of automatic weather stations are now reporting visibility. This is an important element at fog-prone locations, such as low-lying country near airports and on mountain tops where low cloud creates difficulties for pilots. AWN's hourly observation tables now show automated visibility readings together with those entered manually by human observers where these are available at the larger airports.

Tuesday 13 April
Easy feedback system to keep links up-to-date

With thousands of links to maintain in the links sections of the site, I appreciate reports from AWN's users of any dead links, or any new links to add to these pages. I've therefore introduced a quick feedback form at the bottom of each of the newly formatted links pages to make it easy for users to help, and quick and easy for me to respond. As an example, take a look here.

Monday 12 April
AWN links pages reconstruction begins

AWN's pages of links to Internet sites are undergoing an overhaul. All of the Forecasts on the Web pages have been changed over to a new format that (I hope) makes navigation quicker by separating links, ratings and explanations. The current weather links pages are next for overhaul, which includes checking for out-of-date links. When all links pages have been upgraded, new links that I have been saving for some time will be added.

Sunday 11 April
Bureau real-time rain reporting for Melbourne on hold

The lack of rainfall tables for Melbourne in the Bureau of Meteorology's nearly complete national flood warning system (see story below) is likely to be temporary. Much of the data for the Melbourne metro area and catchments to the north and east is supplied by Melbourne Water. Though this data is available on the clickable map of the area, it is not included in the hourly, 3-hourly and daily data tables.

The Bureau says that Melbourne Water has plans to eventually make this data available through their own website. "While we have their permission to display these data for the time being, we have decided to wait until they get their site running before we decide how to proceed with any further development and/or links to their proposed site," a Bureau spokesman said.

The only other area in which both maps and data are not yet available in this very useful system is in country South Australia.

Wednesday 7 April
Bureau flood warning and real-time rain reporting system completed

The Bureau of Meteorology's national flood warning and rainfall information system was completed today with the introduction of regional, clickable maps for Victoria and Tasmania. While the system is designed for easy understanding of rainfall and river heights in flood situations, it is also very useful for tracking rainfall in more normal times.

All states now have high-scale district maps which make it easy to visualise the distribution of rainfall in real time. The rain for the 24 hours to 9am, the rain to the most recent hour since 9am and the rain in the past hour graphically displayed on separate charts. By running your mouse over the rainfall station dot, you can see the rainfall amount in your browser's status line. Alternatively, click the dot to bring up the same information in a window. The same click or rollover brings up river heights and status on the river height maps. There are also links to tables of hourly, 3-hourly and 24-hourly rainfall for the stations shown on the maps.

The only somewhat glaring gap in the system is the Melbourne metro area. A new map covers the Port Phillip area, including Melbourne, but data tables do not yet cover the capital and surrounding areas, apart from the Werribee River catchment.

The maps and data are available on the Bureau's National Flood Warning Rainfall and River Information site, or you can use the AWN interface by clicking Current then Rain & Rivers.

Wednesday 7 April
Weatherzone introduces 15-level radar

Weatherzone today introduced 15-level radar images to the Australian public on its free service. The additional level of information can be seen in the Grafton radar image at left captured at 7.40pm EST today and showing heavy showers approaching Grafton. The Bureau's 7-level image for the same time is below -- click both to open full-sized images in separate windows to compare. While the Bureau, which operates the radar installations, receives the same 15-level data as Weatherzone, it has chosen to remain with the 7-level images for the present.

The Weatherzone radar images are callibrated to allow precise reading of the echo intensity returned to the radar. The scale is on the smaller images on the site, and there is a detailed explanation here.

Saturday 3 April
AWN daily data updated earlier

The AWN daily data pages for all Australia now update twice daily, once around 2.45pm and a second time at around 5.45pm to catch the day's maximum temperature reported to 3pm and any late rainfall data.

Friday 2 April
Bureau report on TC Fay

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a brief illustrated report on Tropical Cyclone Fay.

Thursday 1 April
New look for AWN

AWN's navigation system has been redesigned for faster loading and a more logical layout. All the main links are now in narrow bands at the top of each screen, giving maximum screen real estate for content. The javascript Quick Menu has gone in the interests of speed, and all AWN products now appear in the light green band on relevant pages -- Forecasts & Models, Current weather and Recent weather -- and additional menus open up as needed allowing for easy future expansion. Links to external sites are accessed from the darker green (teal) band on the same screen. Thanks to the crafty folk at Weatherzone for some useful space-saving ideas.

I hope you enjoy the new system. There have been some changes to file names, but nothing has been removed from the site. If you can't find a favourite page on the menus, email me for help. Some of the screens still use side-menus, and these will be upgraded soon. With about 16,000 pages on the site, there may be some linking problems -- if you find any, please let me know.

The next project is to get the external links pages up-to-date!

Sunday 28 March
SA, NT observations awry

The unusual time zone in which SA and the NT lie, 9.5 hours ahead of UTC, is causing some temporary problems with weather observations. Until recently, the codes in which stations reported their observations only allowed whole hours to be given, so SA and NT were effectively reported in eastern standard or daylight saving time, even though the observations were taken half an hour later. New standards introduced by the WMO require the observations to be reported in hours and minutes, and it is taking a while for the mix of professional, voluntary, co-operative and automatic observers to align with the new standards.

This is the reason why the observation pages for SA and NT are currently showing some observations taken at the correct time, some half an hour before and some half an hour behind. The mix of observation times is also causing some obs to be dropped from the AWN synoptic charts for SA and the NT. The problem will eventually be resolved as observers become accustomed and automatic weather stations are reprogrammed to the new system.

Tuesday 23 March
World Meteorological Day celebrates the information age

The World Meteorological Organisation is 54 today. If its predecessor, the International Meteorological Organisation, is counted, world co-operation in the exchange of meteorological information and ideas has been at work for a remarkable 131 years.

Each year, the WMO sets a theme for the year, drawing attention to an area of particular relevance to the meteorological community and the world community as a whole. This year's topic is Weather, Climate and Water in the Information Age. It focuses on the ever-more-sophisticated technology being used and developed in weather and related sciences, and in particular the uses of technology, such as the Internet, in distributing weather information to users world-wide.

The WMO has prepared a 40-page booklet on this theme which is available here in pdf format, and is well worth the 3.75mb download. More information on World Meteorological Day is available on the WMO site here.

Tuesday 23 March
Bureau web site accolades

Avoka Technologies, an Australian company specialising, among other things, in website monitoring technologies, judged the Bureau of Meteorology's website to be Australia's best-performing site for 2003. Among the criteria were download speed and reliability. The Bureau's site is one of the busiest in the country. In January, it smashed previous records by scoring half a billion hits, due in part to the Melbourne thunderstorms of January 29 and 30.

Saturday 13 March
Report and images of TC Monty

Tropical Cyclone Monty crossed the WA Coast late on 1 March causing remarkably little damage, but subsequently producing significant rainfall and flooding. A short report, with some spectacular images, has been released by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Saturday 13 March
BoM Flood Warning Centre seeks feedback on QLD floods

The QLD Flood Warning Centre of the Bureau of Meteorology is conducting a survey to improve its understanding of the impacts of January and February's inland on communities. The detailed questionnaire is here.

Thursday 11 March
Bureau shelves plans for more freely available forecast charts

The Bureau of Meteorology has scaled back plans for making more of its computer model forecast charts available on its website. The Bureau had planned to move a number of charts from its subscriber service to free availability, including forecasts of wind, waves, rainfall and some upper air charts. Wind and wave forecast charts were introduced in early January, but it has since been decided not to release free rainfall and upper air forecast charts, at least for the foreseeable future. However, some upper air analysis charts and also state-based sea surface temperature charts have been added to the public free list.

Ironically, the decision seems to be at least partly the result of the huge success of the Bureau's website. www.bom.gov.au recorded 400 million hits in February, making it one of the busiest sites in Australia, but resourcing that traffic is eating into Bureau budgets and limiting its priorities. Another factor seems to have been the successful startup of The Weather Company's Weatherzone Silver service last November. For $5 a month, the service offers a range and quality of charts, graphical forecasts and numerous other services that the Bureau could only match by diverting resources from more pressing priorities.

Saturday 6 March
Improvements to Bureau flood warning and rainfall information

The Bureau of Meteorology's realtime internet flood warning rainfall and river level information service has taken a major step towards completion with the addition of hourly and 3-hourly rainfall data for Tasmania. These are available directly from the service's Tasmanian page, or by using the Tasmanian link on the the AWN rainfall and rivers interface which you access from the Quick Menu > Observations links.

The Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment now has river information, including near-realtime plots and data, on the web. Links to this are on the Northern Territory link on the AWN rainfall and rivers interface.

Thursday 4 March
Improvements to COLA forecast charts

The forecast charts accessed off the Quick Menu, all of which are produced by COLA, have had a facelift. New colour schemes for the rainfall and 850hPa level ("Snow/heatwave") charts make them easier to read -- in the 850 chart, the outline of Australia often became buried under moisture graphics. The "Thunderstorms" chart now shows CAPE as its measure of instability rather than the Totals Totals index. The Tot-Tots index is a rather blunt instrument for estimating convection based on the temperature at only two levels in the lower/middle atmosphere and humidity in the lower atmosphere. CAPE, however, measures the amount of energy available for convection throughout the depth of the atmosphere up to the limit of convection. It is also directly related to the maximum potential vertical speed within an updraft. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, readings over 1000 joules per kilogram (J/kg) would suggest the likelihood of thunderstorms, and over 2500 the possibility of severe storms.

Tuesday 2 March
Upgrade to AWN automatic weather station data

AWN's real time automatic weather station data now shows the altitude of each weather station and the distance and bearing of the station from the nearest fairly well-known town or city. In addition, AWS reports for offshore islands are now available off a link above the main access maps. AWS data is accessed off the Quick Menu > Observations > Hourly Observations link in the top left corner of this page.

Thursday 8 January
Changes and updates

  • Added to Current Weather: links to new Bureau hourly data tables for QLD
  • Added to Forecasts > Marine: BoM Marine Weather Services Page pulls together all official ocean and coastal warnings, forecasts, observations and charts for mariners along with links to guides to the services. Wind and wave height forecast charts, including some useful animation loops, are available on the forecast page, as are sea surface temperature maps for each state. (08/01/04)
  • Added to Current Weather > Satellite Images > Other: Daily, weekly and monthly analyses of sea surface temperature from the BoM. Go to the bottom of the page. (08/01/04)

Monday 5 January
Changes and updates

  • Forecasts > US Models page: Numerous changes and updates.
  • Link rating system: revised
  • Averages: the averages used in many of AWN's real time data tables have been updated to the latest Bureau issue
  • Station catalogue: The station catalogue that supports the real time data tables has been updated.