With both eyes on the weather
By CRAIG McTEAR
NO matter how extreme the climate's been, Greg Crow has weathered it all, pursuing the job he loves.
He's been a weather observer with the Bureau of Meteorology for nearly 30 years, and he's currently the officer-in-charge at the Coffs Harbour office.
Greg and his fellow observers, Ashleigh Wilson and Roger Brown, and engineering officer Adam Gimes, are the dedicated crew keeping us fully informed on how Mother Nature is behaving.
The fact Coffs Harbour has a weather bureau ? tucked away near the airport ? may come as a surprise to many, but the first recordings in the city actually date back as far as 1951.
Let's face it. We're all interested in what the weather's doing, because it can dramatically affect our lives each day.
So in that context, the services Greg and his team provide are vital.
"Being a good weather observer requires accuracy and dedication," Greg said.
"I enjoy what I do. We're contributing to science, and we're keeping the community informed."
Greg was only 21 when he first joined the bureau. He'd been manning a petrol station at the Nullarbor Homestead when he bumped into a weather observer and decided that would be his new career.
He's been posted to as many as 20 far-flung locations over the years, ranging from Australia's red heart to an island 400km off the Cairns coast, even Antarctica.
Greg has witnessed some extreme weather during that time, but perhaps none more dramatic than Cyclone Justin in Cairns in 1997, and polar blizzards.
Coffs Harbour's climate is sublime in comparison, but Greg enjoys it nonetheless.
The bureau team provides information for local pilots who rely on people to be on the ground to warn them about fogs and thunderstorms.
The observers also help meteorologists Australia-wide to provide accurate weather warnings, and they give the public the latest weather information.
"That's becoming more and more popular every month as an increasing number of people log onto the bureau's website," Greg said.
"We also archive data. We need to keep a history of the weather, which we send to the National Climate Centre in Melbourne."
Our local weather observers have a vast array of equipment at their disposal.
They release a weather balloon at least twice daily so they can obtain profiles of wind speed and wind direction.
"This allows pilots to know what level to fly at to get tail winds, and meteorologists can follow the passage of a front," Greg said.
Atop the bureau building is a dome which encloses a radar dish, while an instrument enclosure on the ground houses a lightning counter, an evaporation pan, rain gauges, a fog and dust detector, laser beams to determine cloud height above the ground, a rainfall sampler and temperature gauges.
Greg says some days can be 'very quiet', but he's adamant no one has time to be bored.