Our Bureau of Meteorology has hit the news again recently for all the wrong reasons.
Granted, you won't normally read about them while they're doing good, which is unfortunate.
I am normally one of the BoM's most fiercest defenders but they dropped the ball on Saturday 17th November. Storms, likely to be severe, were forecast days ahead of a weekend that was being amped up by chasers, punters and the media. However, a storm slipped through early in the day bringing destructive winds, heavy rain and cloud to ground lightning.
Photos of spectacular storms on Sat 17th Nov 2012
I was shooting the storm from Toombul Shopping Centre. After it'd gone through, I went inside to discover one store without power and a dozen buckets collecting water from a leaking roof. Reports then started emerging of 110kmh wind gusts near the airport, building damage, trees down, flash flooding, cars underwater near the RNA Showgrounds, and a startling photo by Westside News reporter Vanessa Croll of destroyed stalls at the Kelvin Grove Markets.
Courier Mail: Weather warning did not compute
It wasn't until the storm reached the coast that it apparently reached a technical threshold that finally prompted the Bureau of Meteorology to issue a warning at 10:50am. A media frenzy followed, reporting outrage at the BoM for not issuing a warning earlier. Considering the storm's ferocity, it does seem odd that a warning wasn't given until it was too late, which of course reeked of Grantham, but clearly not to the same scale, thankfully. It's interesting that, as mentioned, the BoM had forecast severe storms days ahead, so they knew what was coming.
Another view is that all you need to do is look out your window and see black clouds to realise that a storm is coming. I'm not sure that is enough of a warning for many people. But the other point is that because the BoM had forecast severe storms days prior, we had plenty of time to prepare... if you watch the news and weather.
Courier Mail: Bureau's failures need explanation
From my own experience, it seems that many of those complaining about having no timely warning are those who are actually concerned about OTHER people who don't watch the news and hadn't seen the forecasts. Most severe storm warnings at least get splashed up over whatever TV or radio show happens to be on the time due to the urgency of the situation.
I guess it comes down to how you get your information and how much time and effort should be spent getting that information to you. The Bureau clearly has strict systems in place that adequately cover most scenarios, but not the one on that Saturday morning. No system is perfect.
Courier Mail: Funding necessary to boost weather bureau's warning system
Over the last few months storm chasers have also lamented the disappearance of the nightly weather balloon, which provides important data like temperature, dew point and wind direction and speed for all levels of the atmosphere. It's an important tool for forecasting and predicting thunderstorms. There were previously two balloon launches a day but due to a cost-cutting measure, there is now only one launch at forty of the Bureaus sites. From an annual budget of $323 million, the Courier Mail found that the loss of this vital data has resulted in a saving of under $100 a day. Another very puzzling move.
We continue to watch the Bureau with interest.
Marty is a professional photographer and avid storm chaser. The Amazing Chase is a bi-monthly column which appears in the Outback City Express newspaper.
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