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BOM weather: Six questions you've always wanted to ask a meteorologist

It runs one of the most-viewed websites in Australia and broadcasts its weather forecasts and warnings around the country each day.

But for the millions of Australians who rely on the Bureau of Meteorology to help plan their daily lives, the ubiquitous BOM may still be a bit of a mystery.

So on World Meteorological Day, senior meteorologist at the BOM, Adam Morgan, answers a few questions that we’ve probably all wondered at some point.

How do you predict the weather?

“To be able to forecast the weather correctly we really need to observe the weather in all facets.”

“We take readings from thermometers; we take pressure readings from barometers; and more and more we use satellites to get information about cloud types, and radars for rainfall.

“All of these observations feed into computer models and they form the basis of predicting the weather out into the future.

“And those computer models are improving all the time.”

So why do you always get it wrong?

“It’s always the first question anyone asks me! The reality is we actually get it right most of the time.”

“But you know, the weather is an inexact science.

“We use computer weather models to forecast the future in conjunction with all our meteorologists’ personal experience over decades working in the role.

“That all comes together to forecast the weather.

“But sometimes nature can throw a curve ball at you and they’re the ones where we may not get it 100 per cent right, but most of the time we do.”

Where in Australia has the best weather?

“Well that all depends on where you live, doesn’t it? Everyone has different preferences.”

“I’ve lived in a couple of places around Australia since I’ve worked at the bureau — In Melbourne, in Darwin.

“I’ve loved them equally for the types of weather that they have.

“I love the hot, dry summers in Melbourne, but I love the humid, explosive thunderstorms that you get in Darwin.

“And the weather means different things to different people, and I think that really, anywhere on any day, somewhere in Australia is going to have perfect weather.”

How can the layperson predict the weather?

“There’s lots of clues that you can use if you just look out the window to become your own weather sleuth.”

“Sometimes if you can see little turrets of cloud in the morning in the middle of the atmosphere of the sky, that will give you an indication that the atmosphere is quite unstable and we might get thunderstorms.

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“You might know that wispy cloud high up in the sky. If you see the sky start to fill with that sort of cloud you can be pretty sure there’s a cold front on the way.

“The cloud will eventually start to thicken and get closer to the ground before that cold front comes.”

What do you think of all the different weather apps?

“Well smartphones have been around for quite a while now, haven’t they?”

“And there are a heap of weather apps out there and many of them use various, different sources — not always the bureau’s official forecasts and warnings.

“But the bureau does have its own official weather app, so you can get all the official forecasts for Australia. And we’d love everyone to go and visit.”

What do people say when you tell them you work at the BOM?

“The first question I always get asked without fail is what television station am I on.”

“But the reality is the work the BOM meteorologists do is behind the scenes.

“All the nuts-and-bolts forecasting that supports all of Australia’s industry — so everything from airlines to agriculture — and those forecasts that end up on air are just a small part of what we do.

“So there really is a huge team of forecasters at the bureau, all working on various avenues to provide the best weather information for Australians every day.”

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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