John Zillman has directed Australia's Bureau of Meteorology since 1978.
A member of the Executive Council of the World Meteorological
Organization since 1979, he is now in his second term as WMO president.
Zillman has served on a wide range of national and international panels
and advisory bodies. Since 1994 he has been Australia's principal
delegate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
(Photo courtesy Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia)
I first visited NCAR when UCAR and I were both still quite young. It was
the early 1970s and I was working with Don Johnson at the University of
Wisconsin, examining the thermal forcing of the large-scale circulation
of the Southern Hemisphere. Even in Australia, NCAR had already emerged
as the place to go to find out what was happening in Southern Hemisphere
meteorology. I needed to talk with Roy Jenne, Harry van Loon, and
Chester Newton to see if I was on the right track. It was, for me, an
enormously valuable few days, and my first encounter with the global
reach of NCAR's research endeavors.
UCAR's links with the international programs of the WMO have always been
strong. Many of the exciting technological developments that were to
feature in the success of the First GARP (Global Atmospheric Research
Program) Global Experiment emerged on the international scene in
briefings from NCAR scientists. One of UCAR's outstanding contributions
to international technology transfer in meteorology under the auspices
of the WMO has been through the excellent work of COMET, the Cooperative
Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training. The WMO
Executive Council Panel of Experts on Meteorological and Hydrological
Education and Training has benefited greatly from the enthusiastic
support of Tim Spangler and the COMET team over the past few years.
One of UCAR's very successful initiatives in reaching out to the
scientific community around the world has been the International
Affiliates Program. As one of those affiliates, the Australian Bureau of
Meteorology Research Centre (BMRC) has enjoyed an extremely productive
research partnership with NCAR in mesoscale meteorology. The focus of
this collaboration has been the BMRC Climate Monitoring and Research
Station in Darwin, Northern Territory.
In the late 1980s, scientists at BMRC and NCAR recognized the potential
of Darwin for field studies of tropical convection. The region
experiences a classical monsoon climate, with monsoon rains in the
austral summer and an extended dry season during the winter months. The
transition seasons see some of the deepest convection on Earth as storms
develop both over the continent and along the coastline. Joint studies
with NCAR have characterized the convection and compared the Darwin
storms with those occurring in other storm-prone regions, such as the
During the transition seasons, deep thunderstorms form across the Tiwi
Islands, just off the north Australian coast, almost every afternoon.
This pattern is similar to the diurnal convection that occurs across the
whole Indonesian archipelago and has a major influence on the global
atmospheric circulation. Collaborative studies by NCAR and BMRC have led
to a better understanding of the mechanisms through which these storms
develop and grow. The storms are monitored by two Doppler radars (one
with dual-polarization capability), two wind profilers, more than 50
recording rain gauges, and more than a dozen automatic weather
The cooperation between NCAR and BMRC has extended from strategic
research studies on thunderstorms to the development of specialized
systems that can be used to support operational forecastingfor
instance, analyzing Doppler radar output to detect the early stages of
convection and the movement of mature storm cells. A number of these
systems feature in a demonstration project in Sydney for the 2000
The ongoing collaboration between NCAR and BMRC, valuable though it is,
is just part of the comprehensive international network that has enabled
UCAR and NCAR to help build a truly global partnership in unraveling the
mysteries of the atmosphere.