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COMMISSIONING OF THE
PERTH METEOROLOGICAL OFFICE



Perth Airport
Wednesday 29th April 1998

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment



Thank you Dr John Zillman, the Director of the Bureau of Meteorology who, as has already been mentioned, also holds the very important position of President of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) - I think that is a great accolade for John Zillman but it also makes me very proud, as an Australian, that Australia does lead the WMO.

So to you and to my Parliamentary colleagues Senator Andrew Murray, a West Australian Senator, and Mr Donald Randall, MHR, the Member for Swan, in whose electorate we currently are - and thank you Don for allowing us to be here - to other distinguished guests, Len Broadbridge, the Director of the Western Australian Bureau and his predecessor, Mr Don Southern, ladies and gentlemen.

First of all can I start off with a very warm thank you and congratulations to the Bureau. They say that "if you need something done, get the Bureau of Meteorology to do it" but I don't think we could have asked for more spectacular weather today - so thank you for arranging it! It's just one of the services that the Bureau does so well!

Ladies and Gentlemen, this office, like many of the Bureau's new facilities has been made possible because our Government, upon its election, was able to add an extra $4.6 million per annum for three years to the Budget of the Bureau to overcome a funding cut-back that had happened for many years previously. This funding increase was in response to a review that found that the Bureau's resources had been eroded to the point that there was a significant deterioration in the quality and reliability of the observational and climate monitoring networks.

As well as addressing that resource problem in the short term, the Government has also put in place a strategy that will allow the Bureau to supplement its future Budget through increased cost recovery and commercial services.

To do this, the Bureau will need to take advantage of the changing demands of the community. The design of this office will help achieve this. The office sets a new "standard" for Meteorological Offices as it not only meets the current operational requirements but also allows for the future requirements that will emerge as new technologies and services are developed.

For those of you who weren't here for the launch of the new Haze Alert Service earlier this morning you probably haven't had time to have a look around the building but there are some very special features of this new office. It's very "environmentally" friendly; it's well constructed.

And in this "post Kyoto" environment - this building uses a combination of thermally efficient panels and solar hot water heating; resulting in a more energy efficient building with reduced air conditioning and lower energy usage.

The special materials and methods which were used in this building allowed for quicker construction and therefore cost savings, something that we are always very conscious of in the Bureau, and they have done this without sacrificing comfort or safety.

Observations taken at Perth Airport have a strong historical link to, and therefore focus on, aviation services. Due to its location, and the lack of nearby alternatives, many international airline carriers consider Perth to be an isolated destination. The half hourly weather reports, therefore, have particular significance, particularly when combined with the short term forecast that is added to them. They can have a major impact on aviation operations flying into and out of Perth airport.

Any instance of poor weather resulting in a closure of this airport could be costly to their operations. So it is essential that the Bureau gets it right when they are doing their forecasts for the aviation industry - and they do it very well.

The improved location of this office, and Len has told you that this one has come out of the hollow, out of the wetlands to this spot, does - together with use of the latest technology - greatly enhance the services that the Bureau can provide to the aviation industry.

Perth Airport, as many of you would know, is part of a larger nation-wide observing network of 60 fully staffed Bureau stations around Australia, some 15 or so are in the Western Australia region.

To complete the "weather picture", information from these stations is supplemented by observations from a further 529 sites operated by Co-operative Observers dotted across the country and a number of volunteer rainfall observers - some of whom, I have discovered, have had the responsibility passed onto them by families from generation to generation to the extent that some families have been involved in that exercise for over 100 years! I think it's worth me noting the great work those co-operative observers and the volunteer rainfall observers do to help with collecting weather data around Australia.

Today's rapidly advancing technology also leads to an increase in the number of automatic weather stations - currently there are about 218 of these unmanned sites around the country.

The data from all these stations contributes to the forecasting process not only at the local level, but also on the state, national and global basis. They also contribute to the important Climate Data Bank that forms the basis of research into topics such as drought, climate variability, climate change and seasonal forecasting.

In the 54 years that the Bureau operations have been at Perth airport, this is the fourth location of the office. To maintain a continuous, and therefore sound, climate record hopefully this will be the last change that the Bureau will have to endure!

In a country as vast and rugged as Australia, establishing and maintaining a thorough and expansive observing network has always posed its own special problems. And Western Australia has its share of those difficulties. A lack of observations, particularly upper air data, from the vast area of open ocean to the west does cause problems. These observations have a significant impact on the forecasters' capacity to not only describe the current state of the atmosphere, but also their ability to accurately predict it.

The Bureau however has found a way to overcome this. In a joint project with industry, they developed a small robotic aircraft which is equipped with small monitoring devices. The attractive feature of this aircraft, the Aerosonde, is that while it is launched in one locality it can, by tapping into the mobile phone network, be controlled from somewhere else - even several thousand kilometres away!

Many of you will already be aware that Western Australia played host to the first operational trials of the Aerosonde earlier this year - the aircraft was launched from Port Headland and flown through the periphery of Cyclone Tiffany - whilst all of the time being controlled from the Bureau's forecasting centre in Perth.

So this exciting development is not limited to weather monitoring applications and will therefore provide an opportunity for the Bureau to increase its range of cost recovery and commercial services around Australia.

I should also mention at this time how very proud I am and I know all of you are, of the great work that the Bureau and it's people do. Some of the Bureau scientists are world leaders in the work they do, and I was particularly interested to learn yesterday, particularly interested because I am a North Queenslander and suffer from cyclones as much as many of you in the west do. But I was particularly pleased to learn of the first class work that is being done by the Bureau of Meteorology in a way that is not quite finalised, so I don't want to jump the gun, but I was very pleased and interested to hear that this work is getting towards being able to predict the path of those very obstreperous and unpredictable things called cyclones. And that's just an example of the tremendous work that the Bureau does and why the Government and I think all Australians are so very proud of the work that the Bureau does.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Perth Airport office serves a variety of functions. In addition to carrying out the full range of standard meteorological observations, the monitoring of ozone has been conducted from here since 1969 along with air sampling and radiation measurements which have been carried out since the late 1950s.

One would expect that as the scope for meteorological services expands in the future, so too will the uses of the observations and forecasts. For example, the upper air data collected here in Perth will not only be used for flight planning for aircraft, but as of this Friday, will also provide information needed to determine the need for the new Haze Alert Service in the Perth metropolitan area.

As business and industry recognise the impact that the weather has on their commercial success, they will also turn to the Bureau to provide specialised services to help increase this success. The Government believes that applying a USER PAYS rule to these commercial groups that they will provide an opportunity for the Bureau to supplement its tax-payer funded resources.

I might say that the Special Services Unit in Western Australia is one of the leading areas where the Bureau raises funds from commercial activities, starting off and principally at this stage, with the work they do up off the NW shelf.

Ladies and gentlemen, as all of you would know, the weather is no respecter of times and shifts - this office is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year - and that's a tremendous commitment from the people who staff it. On behalf of the Government and the community at large, I recognise this dedication and commitment of all those who work in this office to protect and serve the people of Western Australia and I want to, at this stage, particularly thank the staff of this office - currently Michael McIlvenny (the Officer-in-Charge), John Cocks, Eddie Woodside, Allan Butterworth, Colin Blobel and David Miller - who I understand also doubles up as a photographer for our weather calendar at times!

Ladies and gentlemen, can I echo Len Broadbridge's words and congratulate and thank all of those involved in the design and construction of this state of the art building.

It is with those words that I take very great pleasure declaring officially open The Perth Airport Meteorological Office.

Commonwealth of Australia