Weather You Like it or Not

The highly paid, taxpayer-funded 'experts' in the weather bureau have mastered the science of getting it wrong. If only the failure of experts was confined to the weather.

Weather You Like it or Not

The standard preamble to all marine weather bulletins:

Welcome to the marine weather report.  Please be aware that wind speeds may be 40% higher than predicted, and wave heights may be twice the height.

If you will, imagine who else in the country could get away with such margins of error!

“Excuse me, Madam, as your Doctor, I have to caution you that during this operation, I may cut off 40% more than needed, and you may end up 50% shorter than when you came in!“

For those of us earning a living from the sea, the weather is the main show-stopper, and all of us are astonished that the forecasting is pretty ordinary.  

Often, you hear of a strong wind warning only after the wind starts whistling through the rigging, and you are miles from port.  

Are these forecasters in an underground bunker in the CBD, or do they need a window and a spec-saver voucher? 

I had learned the frightening effect of extreme weather as a 19-year-old cadet on a ship caught in a cyclone in the Coral Sea.  It had generated so much fear that I had severe doubts about seeing my 20th birthday.  Extreme weather also claims about 30 large ships a year, when they founder and are overwhelmed by the fury of it all.

South East Queensland has had the wettest November in years, despite the BOM predicting “a very dry month” and luring farmers to sell stock cheaply!

Some years ago, several of the Queensland marine tourist operators came to me to complain about the weather forecast being consistently wrong.

Observing this for the next few weeks, the complaint was verified, and I ended up in a stoush with the weather bureau on talk back ABC radio.

Why was it, I questioned, that the day before, when tourists made their plans, the weather bureau predicted rain, which did not occur?

The threat of rain would deter the tourists from making reservations on charter fishing and diving boats, dining boats and ferries.

This weather issue was reported on the local TV and all the Gold Coast theme parks entered the fray. They too had seen strong evidence of non-attendance due to incorrect weather forecasts.

The weather bureau chiefs, thick-skinned from years of abuse, laid out the reasons on camera.

The Bureau issued a 200-word forecast to all media outlets, they explained. Most radio stations then give a 10-second slot to a junior reporter, who will emphasise the word 'rain' from any suggestion of just an evening shower.  

Subsequently, Mr and Mrs Tourist decide to stay indoors due to the forecast of rain, leaving marine operators running empty boats on sunny days, almost empty theme parks, and business owners wondering where the crowds are

The Bureau then agreed to précis the forecast so that even 10-second slots could not be misconstrued.

It improved the reporting level, and the tourists got more accurate reports of what was happening the next day during daylight, and that’s all they were interested in.

Having said that, months later, while paying careful attention to the marine weather bulletins, whilst having a few at sea, I decided to anchor my old yacht at Tangalooma in the lee of Moreton Island for the predicted 15-20 knot easterlies.

At sunset, just as I anchored and made ready for the overnight stop, my inherent level of suspicion about the weather bureau made me do just one last check.  Sure enough, there was a change to “Westerly winds, 15-20 knots” due that evening, rendering Tangalooma useless as a sheltered anchorage.

So I pulled up anchor and underwent another two hours of sailing in the dark across Moreton Bay to the Scarborough harbour as the rain and the westerlies kicked in while I muttered statements about the parentage of weather bureau personnel.  

Adding to their precautionary blurb about the wind speeds and wave heights, perhaps they should mention that wind direction could be 180 degrees different.

But of course, it’s not just us marine people that suffer from meteorological misinformation.  Airlines suffer too.  I have been on enough flights that have encountered 'clear air turbulence', which, in extreme cases, have people crashing into the roof lining of the plane.  

My vast experience on planes leads me to suspect that there is a solid link between dinner trays with red wine and clear air turbulence.

A Swedish pal of mine, Jan Eric, an ex-pilot, advises that in the (likely) event that your lady gets huffy, argumentative or even aggressive in your relationship, “just remember, it is like clear air turbulence:-

You don’t know what causes it.

You don’t see it coming.

You don’t know how long it will last.

Just hold tight until it passes.

Scientific academics have proven that poor weather does depress the spirits. Their proclamation that SAD – “seasonally adjusted depression” does, in fact, exist. This perhaps explains why the tax department is in Canberra.

The unpredictability of Melbourne's weather is why I left the place and shall continue these scribblings from Queensland.  

Having said that, the last two weeks have seen storms that were finally “unprecedented” and have given us some serious reminders on tree pruning, emergency power backup, and torch batteries.

Having lost power, along with hundreds of thousands of others, I felt very confident when the sun rose the following day and naively thought my 5kW of solar panels would kick in and save all the food in the fridge and freezer.

Fat chance, they told me, because I chose not to install batteries when the panels were installed, the power being generated by my panels, when the grid is down, cannot be redirected into the house.  

Where is Chris Bowen when you need someone to remind you of real cheap power when the sun shines?

A marine industry guru, Hong Kong-based Eric Chu, insists that the weather forecast is never wrong; it’s the days they get confused.

Thought for the Day

“Just for the record, the weather today is calm and sunny, but the air is full of BS.”
Chuck Palahniuk




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