A BOM spokesperson reveals debris in the gauge was the reason BOM failed to supply accurate rainfall data on March 30-31.
A BOM spokesperson reveals debris in the gauge was the reason BOM failed to supply accurate rainfall data on March 30-31. Trevor Veale

BOM responds to complaints of inaccurate data

THE Bureau of Meteorology have spoken out after inaccurate rainfall data was recorded during heavy rainfall in Coffs Harbour last week, prompting complaints from residents and Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker.

The Advocate received large number of emails and calls last week when the area experienced falls of up to 130mm, but BOM recorded just 0.8mm over the 24-hour period on Thursday.

Nationals Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker revealed he had written to the Minister responsible for the Bureau of Metereology the same day seeking answers for the inaccurate data.

"The Coffs Coast is at high risk of flooding and inundation in heavy rain events, so it is vital that emergency services, residents, and farmers have accurate and timely rainfall data to help with planning,” said Mr Hartsuyker.

"I have written to the Minister seeking his assistance in ensuring that the Coffs Harbour BOM weather station will provide accurate, reliable, and timely data in the future.

"I have also asked the Minister to look into local concerns about the accuracy of the Bureau's measurements. A number of residents have raised concerns that the Bureau's reported rainfall data is often very different to their own measurements.”

A BOM spokesperson said they had responded as promptly as they could after their gauge malfunctioned due to debris.

"We obviously knew there was a large rainfall event unfolding on the north-east corner of NSW on the 30th. We went through a process of checking all our rain gauges in the area, and there appeared to be an issue with the Coffs Harbour gauge,” said the spokesperson.

"We contacted the local airport and they checked the gauge to find it had debris in it, preventing it from working correctly.

"We asked them to check the manual gauge rather than the automatic and found there was 104.8mm in that gauge. That is now the official number for that 24-hour period leading up to March, 31 at 9am.”

The spokesperson reveals the debris may have been in the gauge the day before, however there were only light showers in the area making it difficult to determine.

A similar event occured in the March, 2009 floods where an official rainfall reading was not made available due to debris in the gauge.

The spokesperson explains that the manual gauge, which has a volume of 290.6mm, was completely over-topped while the automatic gauge was not working due to the debris.

"We don't know how much additional rainfall went into the manual gauge, but we know at least 290.6mm did. When we looked at other gauges in the vicinity they were reporting 350-450mm. If the local area had flooded it's quite explainable the gauge wouldn't have been working.”

The BOM gauge located at Coffs Harbour Airport has not only caused concern over its beach side location where weather readings can be vastly different to other areas across the city, but also because it is unmanned.

"They seriously need to move that gauge somewhere that actually represents the bulk of Coffs Harbour,” commented Advocate reader Robyn Gowers.

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