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Joint Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
Nigel Scullion
Senator for the Northern Territory

7 June 2004

New data for Alice Springs Bureau from heavens above

Upper air weather observations at Alice Springs will today enter a new era.

Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary with responsibility for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said Alice Springs was among the first of 36 field stations across Australia to benefit from a $7 million modernisation of the Bureau of Meteorology's upper-air weather observing system.

"Every day of the year and up to four times a day, a weather balloon is released from each of these 36 stations," Dr Stone said.

"The information collected can include atmospheric temperature, pressure and humidity, which is relayed back to the Bureau station via a small transmitter.

"This information is vital for weather forecasters. The new state of the art equipment will increase the reliability of the data and access to that data through the Bureau's computing and communications network including access to data on wind speed and direction early in the balloon's flight."

Under the present system, an aerial at the Bureau office picks up the radio signal, while radar is used to track the balloon and determine wind speed and direction. Most balloon flights last about one to two hours and ascend about 25 to 35 kilometres into the atmosphere.

Dr Stone said the new DigiCORA III system, was tailored to Bureau specifications to ensure a high standard of observations.

"One of the benefits of the new system is that it will allow the Bureau's capital-city offices to manage the system, including software upgrades, remotely. Once the roll-out is completed in the coming 12 months, it will also mean one system across these 36 field stations," Dr Stone said.

Dr Stone praised Senator Nigel Scullion who has been a major supporter of the Bureau of Meteorology in the Northern Territory.

"Senator Scullion continues to work hard to ensure that Alice Springs has access to some of the best meteorological facilities and services in the country," Dr Stone said.

Senator Scullion said the project illustrated the Bureau's strong commitment to delivering high quality meteorological services to all Australians.

"The Alice Springs field station is an important part of the Bureau's network and provides high quality data for day-to-day weather forecasts, warnings and long-term climate records," Senator Scullion said.

"The new system would run in parallel with its predecessor for a period of time to compare performance and ensure the integrity of the climate record."

Commonwealth of Australia