Australia Weather News

The aviation forecast desk has to be as up-to-date with what's coming as possible. - ABC

How about that weather, eh?

It's the topic for many a socially awkward barbecue or work function, it affects us all in some way every day, but what does it take to forecast the future?

Tristan Oakley loved thunderstorms as a kid, and after dabbling in geology at university he realised the skies were more his thing.

"I couldn't really remember the names of all the different rocks, couldn't quite get excited in rocks," he said.

Mr Oakley is a forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology's Hobart office.

The office looks much like any open-plan workspace, except most of the desks have multiple computer monitors lined up almost like something from a space movie.

The multiple screens show various inputs of information, in graphical and data form, which the forecasters use to predict what the weather will do.

Computer programs play a major role in weather forecasting, however human interpretation is still needed to make sense of it all.

"We have ... to work out which model is doing the best job and then from there we can decide what the weather's going to be for the next seven days," Mr Oakley said.

"It is hard trying to work out which one to believe a lot of the time but we do put all of that information together.

"We're pretty good with what the forecast is going to be up to three days out, and then from there things do get a little worse and it becomes harder as the models can be a bit unstable."

Forecasters work shifts so there is always a forecaster on duty, day and night, observing, forecasting and watching for severe or dangerous weather.

As well as the day-to-day regular forecasts heard on news updates and updating your phone app, a whole workstation is devoted to forecasting for aviation.

"Unlike the public forecasts where we just say 'in the morning, in the afternoon', with aviation we have to be accurate within an hour or two," Mr Oakley said.

During the bushfire season in Tasmania, a forecaster is also rostered to keep track of winds, temperatures and potential lightning strikes.

Trying to spot the trends

Downstairs from the daily forecasters the longer-term weather observations and predictions are done.

Ian Barnes-Keoghan moved into climatology at the BOM after working as a forecaster.

"The shift work didn't agree with me."

He now focuses on the long-term trends of the weather, interpreting the data of daily observations to predict long-term changes.

"We've got so much data," he said.

"We have some millions of observations coming in every day and putting that together in some sort of meaningful form is a really big challenge and then trying to spot the trends that are emerging."