Two permanent staff members will relocate to Cairns when the field station is automated in December. Picture: Chris Ison
Two permanent staff members will relocate to Cairns when the field station is automated in December. Picture: Chris Ison

BOM executive sheds light on Rocky field station automation

The Bureau of Meteorology has shed some light on the automation of Rockhampton’s field station.

Two permanent staff members will relocate to Cairns when the field station is automated in December.

BOM Group Executive Business Solutions Peter Stone said the bureau was in the process of automating 24 field stations, with 20 already automated and Rockhampton the last on the list.

Mr Stone said the reason the field stations were being automated was so they could provide more accurate data, which he said would create better weather forecasts.

“Over the years, the number and accuracy of observations we‘ve taken has increased massively, to the point where today we take in over a billion data points every day that tell us what the weather is doing,” he said.

“We then take that data, put it into our weather models, and use the output to guide our meteorologists and that process has enabled us to massively improve the accuracy and reach of our forecasts.

“For example, the three-day forecast we issued today is better than the one-day forecast we issued 20 years ago.

“That’s a big improvement in both the accuracy and lead time in our forecasts that comes from a combination of more accurate data, and the use of the weather models.”

He said the automation of field stations was occurring at the same time as the bureau was renewing its 700 automatic weather stations across the country.

“All 700 field stations are being refreshed,” he said.

“There will be even better, more modern observation equipment in place in Rockhampton as a result.

“Those weather stations and our more than 60 radars across the country make up our observation equipment we have on the land.

“Even with all those radars, and all those weather stations, they provide less than five per cent of the information we use to make forecasts. The observations we use to make weather forecasts comes from satellites.”

He said no jobs were being lost in the automation of the field stations.

“Those rolls are moving within North Queensland,” he said.

“The bureau actually has three times as many staff in North Queensland today than it did seven years ago.

READ: Lauga labels Rockhampton BOM automation ‘shameful’

READ: Legendary CQ weather forecaster reacts to Rocky BOM cuts

“We‘re increasing our capacity to fix things in Queensland in the event they go wrong.

“The motivation for automating the field sites is to improve service, not reduce cost.”

On Wednesday, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry posted on Facebook a number of facts she claimed were to correct “mistruths” Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke and Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga were “spreading” about the automation of the Rockhampton field station.

“There has never been a weather radar in Rockhampton, so to say it is being decommissioned is nonsense,” Ms Landry wrote.

“Rockhampton has always been covered by weather radars located in Gladstone, Emerald and Mackay.

“The Rockhampton forecast has been coming from Brisbane since the 1970s.”

Mr O’Rourke hit back at the above facts, claiming they were incorrect.

“The Rockhampton office had a radar until only a few years ago and employed forecasters who dealt with aviation, marine and public weather forecasts locally until 2012,” he said.

Mr Stone said there was a radar in Rockhampton, however, it was used primarily to track weather balloons.

“The Rockhampton radar never contributed data to the bureau app,” he said.

“The Rockhampton area gets its radar coverage from Gladstone, Mackay and Emerald.

“At the end of the year, we will be filling the gap with a radar going in at Taroom.”

He said there were no forecasters at the Rockhampton field station and hadn’t been for about ten years.

“There is no forecasting capacity in Rockhampton,” he said.

“The change doesn‘t impact the availability of forecasters for Rockhampton in any way shape or form.”

He confirmed forecasts for Queensland were done from the Brisbane office, especially for severe weather forecasts.