Bureau Of Meteorology

One of the things that just about everyone in Gippsland and most rural areas in Australia relies on are reliable weather forecasts, be it farmers or individuals like me that might be planning a camping trip into the High Country. Knowing what the weather is going to be in the forthcoming days or weeks can be imperative to some, especially farmers when it comes to planting and harvesting crops.  Obviously the only source for Australian weather comes from the Bureau Of Meteorology (BOM). However, the BOM is, more often that not, thought of as the BOG (Bureau of Guesses), as such is the reliability of weather forecasts often ‘predicted’ by the BOM. Many people (and this comes from talking to local farmers etc) look at the BOM forecasts, laugh and plan for the exact opposite. Such is the high esteem in which the BOM’s predictive capabilities are held.

The Lakes District - South Gippsland Victoria

The Lakes District – South Gippsland Victoria

This was once again highlighted when I was planning for one of our Cruises over last year’s Melbourne Cup weekend. I was really happy seeing that the BOM weather report showed on the Wednesday prior to the weekend that we were in for a hot and dry remainder of the week and weekend. Waking up on Thursday it was raining and looking at the BOM weather forecast, it was now showing rain for the rest of the week, across the weekend and into next week. Crap! Then the ABC reports ‘Early season records set to tumble as hot air mass looms from the north‘, contradicting the BOM’s weather report of the same day. And then, again, on the day before the start of the Cruise, it’s raining, yet WeatherZone is reporting that it’s going to be 32C. I guess a a few months from now, the weather this weekend will have been adjusted and homogenised such that the Melbourne Cup weekend 2018 was the hottest and driest on record.

Moroka Campsite

Moroka Campsite

Now I understand that weather forecasting is not an exact science like ‘climate science’, so it’s far more difficult to predict the weather a day in advance, unlike climate science where you can predict the climate 100 years from now. But the BOM seems to be getting things so wrong lately that it makes you wonder what all the computer technology they have is actually doing. Is it garbage in, garbage out? For example, at the beginning of this year, the BOM predicted a dry month for Townsville. What really happened was the complete opposite. Was this unpredictable? If the likes of the BOM can’t predict the weather one day in advance, how the hell can they support climate predictions 100 years in advance? Or even 10 years in advance?

BOM rainfall predictions for Jan 2019 - (source: BOM)

BOM rainfall predictions for Jan 2019 – (source: BOM)

Actual rainfall for Jan 2019 - (source: BOM)

Actual rainfall for Jan 2019 – (source: BOM)

And now the beginning of 2019 is supposedly the hottest on record? Well, I’d suggest that the previous two years in Victoria were much hotter. I well remembering many sweltering days and nights in a row where our hounds needed wet towels over them just so they could cope with the heat. This year we had just one or two days where it got hot, preceded and followed by mild days such that our house never heated up once for any prolonged period of time like it did in previous years. So where does the BOM come off always calling every successive year the ‘hottest on record’ when actual experience shows otherwise? Are they using the same computer models as used by the IPCC to predict the climate 100 years from now? In Jan 2017 it was so hot that a flock of Gang Gang Cockatoos came to our yard to shelter within some of our shady trees and even then they were suffering from the heat of that Summer.

Gang-Gang Cockatoo - Mirboo North Victoria

Gang-Gang Cockatoo – Mirboo North Victoria

For several days now I’ve been planning on going out to take some video and every time that I look at the forecast for the next day it’s turned out to be wrong. One day rain is predicted and then it’s fine, the next it’s predicted to be fine and the next morning it’s rain. It’s almost impossible to make any forward plans because of the inaccurate and constantly changing forecasts. Sometimes the forecast changes hourly and is usually wrong each time. Today, Easter Sunday, as I was writing this story, it was supposed to be 28C, yet past midday and it still hasn’t risen above 20C. Also, the morning forecast for the forthcoming week has already been amended, with lower temperatures and rain throughout. And  now it’s been pretty much confirmed that the BOM can’t predict even 15 days in advance, let alone into the next century, ‘Want weather forecasts more than 15 days away? Not possible, say researchers‘.

In fact, new research suggests that it may be impossible to accurately forecast beyond 15 days.

And with today’s technology, we’re not even close to that.

In reality, accuracy drops off pretty quickly.

The Bureau of Meteorology provides seven-day forecasts, and even they would admit it gets a bit error-prone towards the end of the week-long outlook.

The forecast for tomorrow and the day after is pretty much spot-on; up to day five it’s not too bad, and by the time you reach day seven things get a little shaky.

I honestly believe that our weather forecasting was a lot better in the pre-computer days when skilled meteorologists based their predictions on perhaps more arcane methods. There is little doubt that Lennox Walker, Australia’s best known and respected latter day long range weather forecaster, managed to do much better than today’s computer aided (or is it controlled) experts. And prior to that there was Inigo Jones who pioneered weather forecasting in Australia and who Lennox Walker understudied. Perhaps our BOM needs to go back to the methods employed by these pioneers in weather forecasting and re-learn what clearly has been forgotten or perhaps discarded in favour of ‘science’. And did the BOM predict this, ‘Snow falls in WA in April for first time in 49 years as Good Friday cold blast turns Bluff Knoll white‘:

It is the earliest recorded snow event in a calendar year in the state’s history.

The last recorded fall before this time was April 20, 1970, according to Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) records.

Dozens of hikers made the trek up the 1099-metre tall Bluff Knoll on Friday, which generally records light snow a couple of times each winter but rarely in April.

Not a lot of noise is made when extremely cold temperatures and related ‘cold’ events hit Australia, especially when it strikes places where it’s completely unexpected. It’s just ho hum, nothing to see here, move on. Yet on the other hand, it’s nothing but noise and faux panic when we get a typical hot Summer and hot weather is recorded in places that normally do get hot. Of course anyone that’s been observing this situation over the last few decades, especially the last 10 years, is well aware of the ‘Chicken Little Syndrome‘ that appears to drive the BOM in every instance. All that we can hope for is that one day sensible people will resume control of the BOM. Mind you, this lack of predictive ability appears to be a worldwide phenomenon:

And to close off, there’s this unbelievable example of data manipulation by the BOM, ‘Albany robbed of its coldest ever April day, BOM adjusts temp up 15 degrees C?!‘. The BOM doesn’t even seem to care that they are blatantly altering the true temperature data, as clearly as no mainstream media outlet will ever question what they are doing, if they could even comprehend. This harks back to the very darkest days before WWII when similar tactics were applied, ‘…repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it …:

Friday April 19th set more records than anyone realized. Not only was it the earliest recorded snowfall at Bluff Knoll, but it was also the coldest ever April day in Albany and many other towns in south-west Western Australia. It may also be the largest single day temperature mystery I’ve ever seen in the official “raw” data.

Days like the 19th are extremely unusual in Western Australia — it’s a state that often doesn’t get any snow all year and when it does, the length of the entire snow season is measured in hours. So you might think the million-dollar-a-day Bureau of Meteorology would be paying extra attention. Instead it appears they have lost that day’s data in Albany, despite having two thermometers there to record it. One station is in the city itself and there’s an official “expert” ACORN station at the airport about 10km away.

Luckily Chris Gillham, unpaid volunteer, was watching the live half hour observations roll in at and saw that thermometers at the airport recorded a maximum of only 10.4°C at 11am that day, which he remarks is the lowest April maximum the BOM has ever recorded there. Strangely, the 10.4°C seems to have disappeared. Somehow, the BOM has estimated that April 19th in the city of Albany was 25.1°C on Friday April 19th, which is what is now entered as “raw data” in their Climate Data Online. This is despite temperatures in almost all the surrounding towns being similarly low, and often lowest ever records (for April) as well.

Update 1. Yet again, evidence that the BOM cannot predict weather more than seven days in advance. So why is it that the BOM so often agrees with climate change forecasts of up 100 years in advance? It simply doesn’t compute:

Simulations by BoM and CSIRO, as well as those from other regions, which we’ve been using for 60 years, can go beyond seven days – some studies say accurately up to 10 days – but BoM offers seven-day forecasts because that’s the threshold at which they trust the simulations to be sufficiently accurate.

So while we always have a seven-day forecast, behind the scenes a forecaster will be more or less confident in its accuracy depending on the disparity between the models.

“It’s not so much a weather forecast. We’re not going to tell you in two weeks time on the Saturday it’ll be fine, sunny and 23. What we’ll be able to say is, ‘In two weeks there’s a high probability it will be wet or dry, or a hot or cold week’.

While data collection and weather modelling improvements will make accurate 14-day forecasts likely in the future, the chaotic, ever-changing nature of weather means more than that, for now, is unlikely.