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Science and Innovation

Goal: A customer-focused and future-fit scientific, innovative, diverse and inclusive organisation.

The Science and Innovation Group harnesses Earth science undertaken by an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce to provide innovative systems and services that deliver greater impact and value for the Bureau’s customers and partners. These systems and services are enhanced by mutually beneficial national and international relationships that allow the Bureau and our partners to achieve more together than they can alone.

The Science and Innovation Group consists of four Programs as illustrated below.



Global and National Science Relationships

Science to Services

Enterprise Innovation

Diversity, Inclusion and STEM


enhancing our world-class science and innovation outcomes through high-value international and national relationships

excellent scientific and technological capability

innovation framework to evaluate and exploit ideas

a comprehensive approach to diversity and inclusion

whole-of-enterprise coordination of collaborations

R&D to underpin Bureau services

processes and tools to manage new ideas

attracting STEM graduates

enhance our influence in national and global forums

enterprise science collaboration

building an innovation culture

developing gender and cultural diversity

Throughout 2018–19, the Science and Innovation Group focused on the delivery of three outcomes that support the delivery of the Bureau’s Strategy and purpose. The Group’s achievement in delivering each of these outcomes is discussed below.

Peer-reviewed scientific journal articles139 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles publishedAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Proportion of Sta1.4% of the Bureau's workforce are Aboriginal or Torres Strait IslanderFemale proportion of staMORE THAN 32% of the Bureau's senior leaders are female

Outcome 1 - An adaptive weather, climate and water knowledge agenda informed by deep customer and partner insight and understanding.

Achieving the outcome

Planning our research and development

The Bureau is developing a Research and Development (R&D) Plan that provides an enterprise approach to meeting customer needs, including the social science activities of the National Forecast Services Group. The Plan will respond to the findings of the review of the Science to Services Program and take account of the R&D within the Bureau’s Public Services Transformation Program.

Maximising the effectiveness and value of our global and national relationships

Work is ongoing to evaluate the depth and strategic alignment of existing and potential external relationships and to develop a partnership framework that will formulate priorities, performance measures and stewardship arrangements.

Strengthening partner relationships

The Bureau is developing a Strategic Partnership Framework and Academic Collaboration Model, including an evaluation methodology that will measure and track the strength of its partnerships over time.

Extending the UM partnership for enhanced forecast and climate services

The Bureau’s Unified Model (UM) Partnership agreement with four other countries has been renewed with increasing emphasis on science collaborations. In addition, a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United Kingdom (UK) Met Office has been signed, with three projects underway including improved and aligned model research to operations, collaboration on model post-processing and decision support for convective weather, as well as long-term collaboration on climate science.

Strengthening and reprioritising of bilateral relationships

The Bureau strengthened its bilateral relationships during 2018–19 through:

  • a collaborative relationship understanding with CSIRO;
  • a reformed approach for bilateral partnership meetings, successfully tested with the Korea Meteorological Administration;
  • its strong relationship with the Australian Antarctic Division via the Australian Antarctic Science Partnership and participation in the Antarctic Research Expert Assessment Panel; and
  • executive meetings undertaken with the UK Met Office and the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Working with fire agencies to develop ACCESS-Fire

Bushfires release large quantities of energy, which changes the surrounding atmosphere. Current operational fire-spread models used for predicting fire behaviour are limited in certain situations, as they fail to capture the complex interactions between fire, topography and the surrounding atmosphere. However, coupled fire-atmosphere models integrate fire and atmospheric components to simulate the dynamic interactions between the two, which is particularly important in resolving extreme fire behaviour in large bushfires.

This latter approach has been used by the Bureau in developing ACCESS-Fire, a model linking a version of the ACCESS weather prediction model to a set of fire-spread equations. This also involved reconfiguring the model in order to resolve the local turbulent flow generated by the massive heat fluxes produced by the fire.

Initial simulations using ACCESS-Fire have now been completed for Waroona and Sir Ivan fires. The Waroona fire burned 69 000 ha south of Perth in 2016 and experienced four episodes of extreme fire behaviour: two ember showers and two pyrocumulonimbus (fire-thunderstorm) events. The Sir Ivan fire burned 55 000 ha in New South Wales in 2017 on a ‘catastrophic’ fire danger day at the end of a heatwave, in which pyrocumulonimbus developed on a wind change. The Sir Ivan simulation results below show the active fire line response to wind direction and local wind structure modified near the fire.

Fire agencies have supported the project since inception. Analysis on the simulations will be completed in close collaboration with external partners through a Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC project. The findings will contribute to knowledge and training material to assist emergency services’ response to bushfires. In the longer term, the findings will inform the development of Australia’s next generation of fire prediction models.

ACCESS-Fire simulation of the Sir Ivan fire at 4.45 pm on 12 February 2017. The images show the fire perimeter, overlaid with relevant weather and fire analysis fields.ACCESS-Fire simulation of the Sir Ivan fire at 4.45 pm on 12 February 2017. The images show the fire perimeter, overlaid with relevant weather and fire analysis fields.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:

  • approval of an R&D Plan for 2020–2030 outlining a vision that reflects customer needs;
  • implementing the Strategic Partnership Framework; and
  • implementing the Academic Collaboration Model that leverages partnerships to deliver improved scientific capability, connectivity and outcomes.

Outcome 2 - A scientific capability of global standing and connectivity, excelling in a collaborative, innovative, diverse and inclusive workplace.

Achieving the outcome

Developing a numerical prediction roadmap

Following an extensive series of interviews with customers, a comprehensive overview of numerical modelling systems for the next 7–10 years has been proposed to maximise the benefits of numerical weather prediction on decision-making. A broader roadmap covering all numerical prediction is being drafted as part of a High Performance Computing (HPC) Plan.

Improving the use of satellite data in numerical weather prediction

An external review of the Bureau’s satellite capabilities was conducted by Erik Andersson, Deputy Director of Forecasts at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The review identified areas where the Bureau could improve its capability, including internal processes and use of new satellite observations, and will inform the development of the new Research to Operations Program as well as future investments in science and technology development.

Showcasing the Bureau’s scientific capabilities and achievements

The Bureau held its annual R&D workshop in November focusing on managing uncertainty in environmental prediction. The workshop was attended by 240 participants, with 28 international visitors; 80 presentations were given providing participants with a solid understanding of the advances and opportunities of probabilistic services.

Maturing organisational diversity and inclusion

The Bureau undertook a wide range of initiatives to help build a workplace where all staff feel empowered and accepted. A 12-month LGBTIQ+ plan was developed, and a Multicultural Action Plan will be published in August 2019. The Bureau is refreshing its Disability Action Plan, with a new iteration of the Accessibility Action Plan due to be published in December 2019 to coincide with International Day for People with Disability.

Events were held throughout the year to raise awareness, recognise and celebrate diversity and inclusion, and included:

  • NAIDOC Week in July;
  • Wear It Purple Day in August, supporting awareness, safety and inclusiveness for young LGBTIQ+ people;
  • International Day of People with Disability in December;International Women’s Day in March;
  • Harmony Day, also in March, featuring staff telling their migration stories;
  • International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) in May, with multiple events across State and Territory offices; and
  • National Reconciliation Week, also in May.

The Bureau also delivered a range of training initiatives on diversity and inclusion, including:

  • Inclusive Leadership Unconscious Bias training to senior leaders;
  • Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training delivered in Brisbane and Adelaide offices;
  • online CORE training to engage staff and create awareness of the vast history and cultural heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Deaf Awareness training delivered in the Brisbane and Melbourne offices; and
  • LGBTIQ+ awareness training sessions delivered to staff and senior leaders.

Building Indigenous linkages

The Bureau remains committed to achieving Indigenous Australian employment outcomes through attendance of Indigenous-specific university careers events, supporting internal mobility and development opportunities for staff and increasing the advertising of affirmative measures opportunities. Relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be strengthened by the Bureau’s participation in the Jawun Secondment Program. In November, the

Bureau hosted the Indigenous Liaison Officer Victorian Network and Yarning Circle facilitated by the Australian Public Service Commission Indigenous Capability Team. The Bureau continues to actively promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional knowledge and published two new seasonal calendars from the Masig community and the Ngoorabul community.

Jawun secondment—Building relationships

The Bureau’s John Timermanis was part of a group of 15 secondees assigned to Indigenous Australian organisations within the Kununurra and Wyndham areas in Western Australia. John’s project primarily focused on policy development with the Ngnowar-Aerwah Aboriginal Corporation in Wyndham, approximately 100 km from Kununurra. The corporation provides a range of services including alcohol rehabilitation, a Sobering Up Shelter with a night patrol, and safe house services for those experiencing domestic violence.

John greatly valued the experience. ‘The skill sharing and support I was able to provide through coaching, mentoring and business case development had a far greater impact than I could have imagined,’ John said. ‘I would highly recommend participation in the Jawun Program to Bureau staff because it gave me the opportunity to share my skills with an Indigenous organisation and learn about Aboriginal culture and traditions. Living and working in Wyndham, I gained a greater understanding of the issues faced by Indigenous people and communities, particularly those in remote locations.’ He also met Susan, a local weather observer, who has been taking readings for the Bureau since December 2017, near the Warmun Aboriginal Community, south of Wyndham.

Building Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) networks

The Bureau implemented its 2018–2019 STEM Action Plan and enhanced its STEM Ambassador Program, with active ambassadors attending various outreach activities to promote the Bureau. Induction events were held in partnership with CSIRO to prepare the Bureau’s STEM Ambassadors to participate in the STEM Professionals in Schools program.

Diploma of Government graduates

In November, five of the Bureau’s Indigenous Australian Government Development Program (IAGDP) participants, Kahleela Marshall, Bruce Sandy, Jonathan Andrew, Andrea Lund and Stanford Thompson, graduated with a Diploma of Government. On hand to celebrate this special day were Graham Hawke (Indigenous Australian Champion), Elizabeth McDonald (General Manager Diversity, Inclusion and STEM), and IAGDP supervisors Jacqueline Cahn and Maggie Harvey.

The 15-month program combines full-time ongoing employment with structured learning aimed at improving employment opportunities, experiences and outcomes for Indigenous Australians in the Australian Public Service. The Bureau has been participating in the IAGDP for six years, successfully bringing outstanding talent into the organisation.

IAGDP graduates (from left) Kahleela Marshall, Andrea Lund, Bruce Sandy and Stanford Thompson.IAGDP graduates (from left) Kahleela Marshall, Andrea Lund, Bruce Sandy and Stanford Thompson.

Verification playing a role in continuous improvement

In May, the Bureau held a workshop focused on how it assesses and improves its meteorological forecasts. The workshop brought together over 40 Bureau staff, colleagues from CSIRO and universities, and eight members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Joint Working Group on Verification on Forecast Research (JWGFVR).

Forecast verification is vitally important for identifying prediction strengths and weaknesses, and informing improvements in our services to the community.

  • Workshop participants enjoyed presentations, discussed techniques and exchanged ideas on topics including:
  • how to measure the accuracy of severe weather warnings, particularly when observations are sparse;
  • the challenges posed by increasingly high-resolution weather model forecasts;
  • how forecast quality relates to value for end-users;
  • accurately tracking the location of low- pressure system forecasts using methods from the field of image processing; and
  • verification of multi-week forecasts.

 Michael Foley (Bureau) explains his ideas to Nanette Lomarda (WMO) and James Taylor (Bureau).Top: Neal Moodie (Bureau) introducing keynote speaker Marion Mittermaier (UK Met Office). Bottom: Michael Foley (Bureau) explains his ideas to Nanette Lomarda (WMO) and James Taylor (Bureau).

Internships for people with disabilities

The Bureau participated in the Australian Network on Disability’s ‘Stepping Into’ Internship Program for the first time, allowing the Bureau to access graduate talent and enhance the organisation’s disability confidence. Bureau managers and staff appreciated the enthusiasm and ability the interns brought to the organisation and gained useful first-hand experience in developing inclusive work practices. Positive feedback was also received from the interns who enjoyed the experience and welcomed the opportunity to gain ‘real-world’ work experience that will assist with future career plans.

Ngoorabul and Masigalgal join IWK website

The Bureau has added two new seasonal calendars to its Indigenous Weather Knowledge (IWK) website and is committed to working with communities who want to record and share their valuable seasonal and environmental information and traditional knowledge. The Masig seasonal calendar has been created to preserve the Masigalgal Elders’ traditional seasonal knowledge and promote the Kulkalgau Ya language. Masig is a very small low-lying coral cay in the Central Islands cluster of the Torres Strait about 160 km northeast of Thursday Island.

Masigalgal recognise four distinct seasons throughout the year: Naigai, Zei, Kuki and Woerr. The timing and duration of these four seasons varies from year to year and for generations, Masig islanders have observed signs in the winds, weather, sea life, plants and animals that tell them when one season is expected to change to another.

The Ngoorabul seasonal calendar covers the Traditional Country of the Glen Innes Highlands, including Boorabee and The Willows Indigenous Protected Area, in the New England High Country of New South Wales. The Ngoorabul people manage around 3000 hectares of land and hope to conserve the koala (burrbii) on their land. The Ngoorabul people use traditional fire management practices to manage the region.

Masig and Ngoorabul seasonal calendarsMasig and Ngoorabul seasonal calendars

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:

  • implementing our Reconciliation Action Plan; Gender Equality Action Plan (2017–2022); Disability Action Plan (2015–2020): and Multicultural Access and Equity Plan (2019–2022);
  • developing a new Reconciliation Action Plan (2019–2022); Accessibility Action Plan (2019–2022) and LGBTIQ+ Action Plan (2019–2022); and
  • establishing a new Research to Operations Program that improves the quality and speed of the Bureau’s scientific capability from research to operations.

Outcome 3 - Sustained deployment of excellent science and innovation outcomes in systems and services, delivering greater impact and value for customers.

Achieving the outcome

Enhancing our modelling capabilities

The Bureau implemented several enhancements to its numerical weather prediction (NWP) modelling capabilities throughout the year. The APS3 model suite is providing world-class guidance and is better meeting the needs identified by customers. The APS3 global ensemble system (ACCESS-GE3) is in production, and high-resolution systems are about to commence real-time trials. The forecast skill of the upgraded system has strengthened the Bureau’s world-class numerical prediction capability, now with one of the best-performing global models among major international operational centres. Objective verification results indicate an improvement in forecast skill of typically 6 to 12 hours relative to the previous system at forecast lead times of 3+ days. This is expected to benefit all of the Bureau’s downstream products and services that use ACCESS-G data.

The Bureau made improvements to improve fog forecasting in the ACCESS APS3 models and also developed a prototype quantitative volcanic ash forecast system that combines ensemble NWP output, inverse modelling and current observations to produce a real-time forecast.

The Bureau’s ocean modelling system OceanMAPS was upgraded with new ocean modelling software, demonstrating a significant performance gain. The next-generation ocean forecasting system, currently being developed in partnership with the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the National Computational Infrastructure under an Australian Research Council Linkage grant project, recently completed a multi-year hindcast run.

Guidance post-processing and forecast process improvements

Guidance post-processing and forecast system improvements have enabled significant redeployment of staffing away production of routine forecasts while maintaining or increasing forecast skill. Verification has demonstrated the capability to automate and helped highlight areas for guidance and service improvement.

A post-processing component has been added to operations for ACCESS-S to produce calibrated 5 km daily forecast data over Australia. These data are being used by external stakeholders for applications models, including the Australian Sheep CRC’s ASKBILL tool. The data are also being used for the first-ever operational multi-week forecast products that will be available to the public later in 2019.

Seasonal prediction capability going from strength to strength

The Bureau’s seasonal forecasting model ACCESS-S was successfully deployed into operations in the second half of 2018, allowing for more accurate, higher-resolution and more frequently updated forecasts for Australia. Initial assessment of forecast performance has revealed a significant improvement in skill. A study of the February 2019 Queensland floods showed that ACCESS-S has the potential to provide useful warnings over and above the current 7-day weather forecast.

The next seasonal prediction system, ACCESS-S2, has been built and is ready to transfer to operations. A comprehensive hindcast set is underway to test the model’s output against past events to see how effectively it forecasts what happened based on observations at the time. Multi-week and seasonal experimental forecast products have been produced for trial by the agricultural sector, as part of the R&D For Profit Climate Extremes project and the Northern Australia Climate Program.

Enhanced seasonal predictability from stratospheric processes

Supported by the agricultural sector, the Bureau is working to identify additional physical mechanisms that drive climate variation, with a view to improving the skill of the ACCESS-S prediction model on seasonal timescales.

The Bureau’s research found that an earlier than usual breakdown of the springtime polar stratospheric vortex, accompanied by stratospheric warming, impacts large-scale hemispheric atmospheric circulations, resulting in an equatorward shift of the westerly jet stream during spring and early summer. This further promotes an equatorward shift of the edge of the Hadley circulation, which can lead to heat and dry extremes in Australia during late spring to early summer. The research also found that the latest version of ACCESS-S can reproduce this relationship quite well and therefore is able to provide improved predictions of extremes in years when the polar vortex breaks down earlier than usual.

Observed enhanced likelihood of late spring to early summer heat extremes (upper quintile) following an earlier weakening of stratosphere polar vortex in late winter, where the likelihood of heat extremes increases four- to eightfold.Observed enhanced likelihood of late spring to early summer heat extremes (upper quintile) following an earlier weakening of stratosphere polar vortex in late winter, where the likelihood of heat extremes increases four- to eightfold.

Improving forecasts beyond a week

The Queensland floods in February caused widespread damage, with estimates of losses exceeding $1 billion. Testing of the Bureau’s new multi-week and seasonal prediction system showed a high probability of very wet and windy conditions across the area over this period. This new system allows the Bureau to extend weather prediction capabilities well beyond the upcoming week. While we cannot change the weather conditions for the next few weeks, we can improve our preparedness, allowing for some mitigation of disasters. While such information inherently relies on probabilities, being forewarned is being forearmed, and with a suitable response to dramatically increased risks, losses can be reduced.

ACCESS-S1 forecasts targeted to the week of 31 January to 6 February, from 17 January (week 3, left column), 24 January (week 2, middle column), and 31 January (week 1, right column) of the likelihood of (a-c) quintile 5 rainfall, (d-f) quintile 1 maximum temperatures, and (g-i) quintile 5 wind speeds. Quintile 5 rainfall and wind speeds refer to the wettest and windiest fifth of all historical weeks at that time of year, while quintile 1 Tmax refer to the coolest fifth of all historical weeks at that time of year.ACCESS-S1 forecasts targeted to the week of 31 January to 6 February, from 17 January (week 3, left column), 24 January (week 2, middle column), and 31 January (week 1, right column) of the likelihood of (a-c) quintile 5 rainfall, (d-f) quintile 1 maximum temperatures, and (g-i) quintile 5 wind speeds. Quintile 5 rainfall and wind speeds refer to the wettest and windiest fifth of all historical weeks at that time of year, while quintile 1 Tmax refer to the coolest fifth of all historical weeks at that time of year.

Supporting management of coastal environments

The Bureau’s seasonal sea surface temperature-based forecast service for the Great Barrier Reef has been updated to use ACCESS-S and was enhanced to include thermal stress products, which account for both magnitude and duration of heat events.

The regional coastal ocean model SAROM was used to support the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions in response to the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) outbreak detected in Port Adelaide in February 2018. Following the outbreak, the Bureau has participated in a project funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation with the South Australian Research and Development Institute to map the dispersion and spread of potential POMS outbreaks in South Australian waters.

Providing science outcomes that meet customer needs

The Bureau successfully delivered climate science research projects to a range of customers including the Department of the Environment and Energy, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Meat and Livestock Australia. The Bureau also undertook outreach activities to rural customers in northern Australia via the Climate Mates initiative under the Northern Australia Climate Program.

The Bureau completed negotiations for the development and planning of Research Plan 6 (RPV6) under the National Environmental Science Program, and extended projects under the Victorian Water and Climate Initiative (VicWaCI) on extreme rainfall and catchment recovery from drought.

Improving our understanding of environmental processes

To assist the aviation sector, the Bureau implemented a trial system for identifying hazardous areas of high ice water content that is being evaluated for its efficacy in delivering warnings on these phenomena. The Bureau works closely with allied industry and science organisations in this important area of research.

Improving tropical cyclone track prediction

The Bureau’s upgraded global numerical weather prediction system provides a major change in forecast skill, positioning the Bureau’s numerical products among the best in the world. There have been major changes made to the number and the use of observations to start the forecast, as well as to the forecast model itself. These developments have been made possible by the Bureau’s partnership with the UK Met Office, and facilitated by the Bureau’s upgraded High Performance Computing capability.

The improved forecast skill of the new model is particularly evident in the forecasting of tropical cyclone tracks and intensity. The new prediction system also provides uncertainty estimates, enabling decision-makers to consider other, likely scenarios or apply a cost-benefit model.

Tracks of tropical cyclone Fani from the new global NWP system (blue) and the previous system (grey) against the observed track (red). Each forecast track starts at a different time.Tracks of tropical cyclone Fani from the new global NWP system (blue) and the previous system (grey) against the observed track (red). Each forecast track starts at a different time.

Improving rainfall probability forecasts

Gridded rainfall guidance provided to the Bureau’s forecasters feeds through to improved rainfall forecasts for our customers. In July, major improvements were made to daily rainfall guidance, with higher spatial resolution, calibration of probabilities to match direct customer experience, and the addition of many more numerical weather prediction inputs to the blended product.

Corresponding improvements to 3-hourly guidance are planned to be operational in August 2019. In the last three years, daily rainfall guidance skill has improved by two to three lead days, meaning that, for example, six-day-ahead forecasts are now better than four-day-ahead forecasts made a few years ago.

A sample forecast of expected daily rainfall from the updated guidance system.A sample forecast of expected daily rainfall from the updated guidance system.

Improving thunderstorm prediction

In November, an upgrade to the Bureau’s numerical weather prediction model-based thunderstorm prediction system Calibrated Thunder became operational on the Bureau’s supercomputer Australis. Calibrated Thunder now delivers a new set of probabilistic thunderstorm predictions across all of Australia, including the nearby maritime areas, every six hours. This information is of particular value to the Bureau’s energy and emergency services sector customers.

The system’s previous version produced 3-hourly thunderstorm probabilities out to two days into the future. The upgrade extended the system to produce 6-hourly and 24-hourly thunderstorm (or lightning) probabilities out to eight days into the future.

Output from the upgraded system now flows into the Graphical Forecast Editor—the Bureau’s primary forecast production system, and into Visual Weather—the operational data visualisation system. Through these delivery channels, the new guidance streams are provided to Bureau forecasters across the country including at the Extreme Weather Desk, where it can be incorporated into forecasts and warnings for the benefit of all Australians.

A sample forecast from Calibrated Thunder showing 24-hourly thunderstorm probabilities for 28–29 March.A sample forecast from Calibrated Thunder showing 24-hourly thunderstorm probabilities for 28–29 March.

Next steps

Key activities to be delivered in 2019–20 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:

  • developing an Innovation Framework to foster new and original ideas that deliver greater impact and value from the Bureau’s scientific capability;
  • deploying the high resolution ACCESS-C3 city models and the ACCESS-CE3 city ensemble models into operations; and
  • development of the next generation NWP models under the next suite APS4.