84th AMS Annual Meeting

Thursday, 15 January 2004: 9:30 AM
Collaborative Developments in Severe Weather Prediction in Western Australia
Room 605/606
Bruce William Buckley, Insurance Australia Group, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; and L. M. Leslie, L. Qi, and J. LeMarshall
The Western Australian Office of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has forecast and warning responsibilities that extend from near the equator to polar waters north of the Antarctic continent, and from 75E to 129E. This is an area much larger than North America. At any one time there can be warnings for severe weather phenomena as diverse as severe tropical cyclones, storm force wind producing polar low pressure systems, wildfire outbreaks over the Western Australian mainland and severe thunderstorms. However, this region is also one of the most data sparse regions in the world and the forecast challenges are immense. To help reduce the challenge, the first steps have been taken to establish a long term research relationship that brings together the research skills of scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Oklahoma, the scientific knowledge of satellite scientists within the Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, and operational meteorologists within the Western Australian Regional Forecasting Centre in Perth.

This collaborative effort will draw upon the earlier, highly successful, collaborations that were established on the eastern side of Australia over the past decade. The New South Wales Regional Forecast Centre and UNSW developed successful joint research projects in a number of areas. First was a very high resolution numerical modelling program for the greater Sydney area, to support the operational weather forecasting for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. This modelling system, a version of the UNSW HIRES model, was run in real time at resolutions down to 1 kilometre across a domain that encompassed all of the Sydney Olympic Games venues. The model output provided valuable information for the forecasters involved in the delivery of weather support to the Sydney Olympic Games.

Another very successful collaboration continues in NSW. Wildfires are a major problem over the whole of the Australian continent. However, the mountainous terrain of coastal eastern Australia is particularly vulnerable to uncontrolled fire outbreaks. The Rural Fire Service of NSW is the prime response agency for wildfire events. A joint research and operational support project was established and continues today that combines the UNSW HIRES model with the on-ground feedback from the Rural Fire Service, and the real-time forecasting support provided by the meteorologists at the NSW Regional Forecasting Centre.

A new research initiative has just commenced between the UNSW, the University of Oklahoma, and the Western Australian Regional Forecasting Centre. High resolution modelling studies have begun investigating the impact of satellite data on rapidly developing mid latitude cyclones that form over the data sparse southern Indian Ocean and produce damaging bursts of storm force winds over the heavily populated south west corner of Western Australia. Two cases will be presented. The first is an intense low that produced severe winds over the south west of WA on 12 July 2002. The second event, on 16 May 2003, produced storm force winds and a 1 metre storm tide that severely eroded popular beaches and flooded major roads, including the main freeway feeding into the capital city of Western Australia. In both cases the combination of high resolution modelling and the incorporation of Quikscat scatterometer winds into the initial analysis led to excellent predictions of the storm structure 36 hours ahead.

Supplementary URL: