The Gordon Gnohm

Play along at home, read Future Farmer in The Braidwood Bugle every Wednesday. 

The Bureau Strikes Back

When I was a little boy, I marvelled at my grandma’s ability to forecast rain. “I can feel it in my waters” she would say. And then later that day it would rain. I still have no idea if she really had the gift or if she was following a reputable weatherman or The Bureau. It was impressive none the less.

Weather Technology

In the 1950 computers were first used to forecast weather with the ENIAC system, collating thousands of data points across the globe. In 1975 NASA started placing stationary satellites into orbit for weather forecasting. The GOES project gave the first near real time view of the earth’s weather patterns. New satellites are still being placed in orbit today. The 1990s brought Model Ensemble Forecasts, for a longer view. It seems like a great time to be a weatherman.

Knowing the weather is important if you work outdoors. Recently, I have lost count of the times I have checked the Bureau of Meteorology forecast before bed, woke up very early to confirm the forecast. Packed the truck and drove 50-200kms to a job sight only to be met with rain. The past few years have been unbelievable. 

The forecast of the long hot dry Summer was delivered. Outdoor workers and farmers heeded the call to mitigate the risk to their bottom dollar. Prudent operations from experienced business folk.

So, this week when the Bureau Chief Customer Officer, made a public statement to the ABC, standing by their forecast, I was floored. The CCO was even bold enough to victim blame farmers.

Farmers do a great job feeding Australians every day. Through drought or flood and sometimes, its awesome weather to be a farmer. For little pay, little thanks and lots of work. 

So why would a government institution come out publicly to blame farmers for listening to their forecast? Saying it’s our fault for listening to the forecast, the Bureau is literally biting the hand that feeds. What else could we do? What would any rational Australian do?

The Bureau announced that they were in fact, super accurate with their forecast citing statistics to back them up. Proudly boasting they were the best in the world. Yet, in the recent annual survey of global weather sites/apps ranked 10th in the world.

The ABC article was fact checked against the Bureau forecasts. The fact checker confirmed that the Bureau had indeed forecast correctly (contrary to other weather commentators). 

Making the claim was the Chief Customer Officer, part of the Executive.

Across the globe NASA Senior Climatologist Gavin Schmidt, Director of the Goddard Institute, has spoken about their incorrect forecast. Quite literally embarrassed that they got it so wrong, and they are not quite sure why. 

Missing Data

He gave a slight nod to some missing data that he would like to be added to their models but claim the data is currently not available. 

At the same time the Bureau have been called out for neglecting their global meteorologic obligations. Fun fact: the same data NASA are calling for is the same data The Bureau are not collecting.

Air particulates in the upper atmosphere is the missing dataset. NASA don’t have the data. The Bureau aren’t collecting the data. Where is the data?

Chinese cities have meters to warn citizens of heavy smog days. It’s a simple device measuring particulate matter in the lower atmosphere. Surely a similar device exists for deployment in the upper atmosphere.


Dr Stone, the Chief Customer Officer and Group Executive Business Solutions at the Bureau of Meteorology. His current role is with a focus on customer engagement and business systems. He stated their announcement had no bearing on stock prices. Yet a marketplace facing a long hot summer which was flooded with stock, saw prices driven down, way down.

The Bureau say their forecast was misinterpreted by farmers. Because ‘Our forecasts have been sensationalised in social media and have crowded out fact based forecasting’ Dr Stone said.

I’m not one for a lot of social media, but I do frequent its halls. I don’t have a TV or listen to the Radio, so how did I get to the same conclusion as everyone else? I first heard the call on a reputable website. Sydney University responded to the Bureau forecast with outlines for procedures to keep students safe during the long hot dry Summer ahead.

Hardly a sensationalised article. It was a pragmatic approach to mitigating the risk to students and staff in the extreme summer ahead. Probably required by their insurance scheme but mostly as part of being a good citizen in the 21stcentury.

Dr Stone has a background in agriculture, so he must clearly understand Australian farmers are one of the main customers of the Bureau.

During my enquiries, many folks have defended The Bureau on the grounds that they have no senior staff and the juniors aren’t quite up to the task. It seems very improbable that the number one agency for weather and climate is having trouble securing experienced, senior staff. Where else would a weather scientist want to work if not for our federal agency, with Public Service payrates, flex time, super, pensions etc. but mainly for the feather in their career cap.

Senior staff have been leaving The Bureau, citing a toxic workplace where their significant scientific opinions didn’t matter. There has been little investigation or change in the workplace environment, regardless of the significant press on this issue. 

Silly Farmers? 

The Bureau actually said in the ABC article, that farmers should not be looking to the national forecaster to manage their stock and properties. Seriously? The fact checker backed it up by saying, “When they (The Bureau) issue the one-month rainfall forecast, take it with a grain of salt and when there’s a three-month forecast, take it with a cup of salt.” That’s like saying don’t trust The Bureau.

If not The Bureau, then who else should us peasants listen to regarding forecasts? 

If weather apps and national institutions can’t be relied on for accurate forecasts, then where do we get reliable weather help? Perhaps it’s time to bring back the forecasters of yesteryear. I’m calling on the tea leaf readers, or anyone who throws rune stones. 

If we, as Australians, can’t rely on our national weather department for accurate weather forecasts, perhaps we should look at defunding The Bureau and spend our tax dollars on something beneficial. Or is The Bureau on the list for privatisation?

So many questions, create so many more questions. If you have an informed opinion, I’d love to hear from you. 

Stay awesome,

The Gordon Gnohm

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