Goal: A Bureau delivering $1 billion in added economic impact and value for Australia.
The Business Solutions Group leads the Bureau in improving customer engagement and business systems to deliver an outstanding experience for its customers. The Group has an enterprise-wide focus on improving the Bureau’s customer-facing skills, systems and processes to promote customer interactions that are more responsive and business-like. It also leads the enterprise in customer engagement across focus sectors, namely: agriculture; aviation, land and maritime transport; energy and resources; national security; and water. By strengthening the Bureau’s relationships and service offerings, the Group aims to ensure that customers value the Bureau as an essential business partner, delivering measurable impact and value every day.
As at 30 June 2020, the Group consisted of five Programs with the following responsibilities:
Deepening the Bureau's relationships
Developing a deep understanding of the sector and its needs
Throughout 2019–20, the Business Solutions 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.
Outcome 1: A Bureau that deeply understands our customers.
Achieving the outcome
Deepening engagement with national security sector
Deep and trusted relationships with the national security sector enabled rapid integration of Bureau support to Operation Bushfire Assist (see highlight below) and uptake of the Bureau's new Global Seasonal Outlook, which provides insights into emerging global weather and climate risks to support security planning and decision-making. The Bureau provided the outlook and associated briefing each quarter to key Government decision-makers in the Departments of Defence, Home Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet and Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Bureau also initiated a first-of-its-kind National Security Meteorology Five Eyes Community of Practice to exchange information regarding national security issues securely at an international level.
Increasing engagement with the water sector
The Bureau established a single point of contact (water [at] bom.gov.au) to engage with its water customers, to support the application of Bureau data and analysis for decision-making. This engagement with water modellers, water operators, water planners and water-dependent businesses enhanced the Bureau's understanding of customer needs and will help to shape future offerings to the sector.
In May, the Bureau ran a webinar on the impact of recent rain on water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin that had 644 attendees from Federal and State Government agencies, water utilities, local governments, banks and financial advisors, and a wide range of water-dependent businesses. The webinar was very well received with a 97 per cent satisfaction rate from attendees. The increasing attendance and strong return rate highlighted the value that these professionals derive from the Bureau's analysis and expertise.
Providing high-value, real-time and tailored services to energy and resources customers
The Energy and Resources Program continued to embed specialist decision-support meteorologists with some of its key customers to help them make critical weather-related business decisions. Embedded meteorologists were placed with the Australian Energy Market Operator and Woodside Energy Limited, informing business-critical decisions such as balancing supply and demand across the energy grid, or deciding when it is safe to continue offshore oil and gas operations when there is a potential for tropical cyclones in the region.
Helping farmers adapt to climate variability and drought
The Bureau, in collaboration with FarmLink and CSIRO, supported the Australian Government's drought assistance package by creating Regional Weather and Climate Guides that make it easier for locals to understand weather and climate trends in their areas.
Fifty-six guides covering all of Australia’s Natural Resource Management regions were released in October and can be accessed on the National Farmers' Federation FarmHub, the Bureau’s website, and the Managing Climate Variability’s ‘Climate Kelpie’ website.
The guides provide farmers with information that helps to improve decision-making as they manage and adapt to weather and climate variability.
Highlights and significant events
Refining smoke forecasts during Black Summer
The bushfires during the 2019–20 summer had significant impacts on the aviation sector for which a low point during this period was undoubtedly the loss of the C-130 large air tanker and its three aircrew during aerial firefighting operations north-east of Cooma in New South Wales in late January.
Over the summer, vast volumes of bushfire smoke regularly blanketed Australia’s eastern seaboard, having a detrimental impact on busy air lanes and the health and safety of ground crew at airports. Smoke at times drastically reduced visibility at Sydney and Canberra airports, significantly reducing airport capacity. At cruising altitudes, pyrocumulonimbus clouds rose above areas with intense fires, requiring course alterations to avoid dangerous turbulence and disrupting carefully plotted landing schedules.
Conversations with the Bureau's aviation customers quickly highlighted that improvements to the coding of areas of smoke in aviation forecasts would help the sector. The Bureau discussed possible approaches with its international network and decided to add an element to aviation forecasts: Vertical visibility. Vertical visibility is applied when there is no distinct boundary of the smoke layer to be determined and the obscuration by smoke is all the way to the ground. New procedures, training and guidance were prepared and delivered to the Bureau’s aviation specialists and published across the Australian aviation sector to pilots, airlines and aerodrome operators. Within a few weeks this new nationally consistent approach had been implemented, communicated and was delivering value.
In late February, the Bureau facilitated a workshop with representatives from across the aviation sector on the impacts of the bushfires, focusing on smoke. The move to introduce vertical visibility was praised by the sector, particularly the quality of the communication that accompanied the change. Insights from the workshop will contribute to more tailored and relevant service provision during future bushfire episodes. The Bureau demonstrated the possibilities offered by air quality models which had been developed with support of fire agencies and show promise for forecasting the movement of atmospheric smoke and the visibility within these layers.
Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 1 include:
deepening our understanding of customer activities, risks and opportunities; and
strengthening strategic partnerships with peak bodies and senior levels of government to catalyse enhanced impact.
Outcome 2: Customers engage with a business-like Bureau to increase their productivity and reduce risk.
Achieving the outcome
Transforming aviation services
The Aviation Meteorological Services Transformation Program was successfully completed in July with the establishment of operational forecasting centres in Brisbane and Melbourne, forecaster training and technology upgrades. This has established the foundation to deliver continuous quality improvement and service resilience, as well as increased flexibility and responsiveness in a safe and efficient operating environment. All forecasts for northern Australia are produced in Brisbane while southern Australian forecasts are delivered from Melbourne. Hazardous weather advisories for phenomena such as tropical cyclones and volcanic ash are produced in Melbourne.
Enhancing the Bureau's National Security Operating Model
The National Security Program has continued to professionalise all facets of the program throughout the year and maintained its agreed levels of support to our customers during the COVID-19 shutdowns. The Defence Weather Services Team achieved ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management certification, which will be expanded to Space Weather Services and the National Security Program in 2020–21. Using lessons learned during Operation Bushfire Assist, a re-evaluation of the provision of services to Headquarters Joint Operations Command was undertaken. The Bureau entered into a consortium agreement with the Australia-Canada-France-Japan syndicate for the provision of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) space weather advisories.
Using data to manage Australia's water resources
The Bureau compiles and delivers comprehensive information about water resources across Australia as part of its responsibilities under the Water Act 2007. In 2019–20, the Bureau supported a range of customer initiatives, including the development of real-time catchment and marine forecast models for the Great Barrier Reef, and the validation of models estimating lake levels from satellites using Australia's storage level data with Brown University in the United States. The Bureau worked closely with WaterNSW to better understand the climate and weather drivers relevant to Sydney's water supply and inform supply augmentation planning.
The Bureau also worked with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to assess climatic trends and better understand climate risk in the Murray-Darling Basin, and with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to manage a significant inflow event in the northern Murray-Darling Basin that led to the first filling of Narran Lakes in seven years.
New approaches to high-accuracy wave forecasting for the resource sector
An urgent customer request to improve wave forecasting in a challenging situation led to implementation of a novel, world-leading approach in partnership with the University of Western Australia. The customer's shipping activities are very sensitive to sea state, such that a variance of 0.2 metre in wave height may mean the difference between bringing a ship in for loading or not. A machine-learning algorithm was used to correct a high-resolution wave model, increasing skill at the location by up to 35 per cent. This approach enabled the customer to make improved decisions leading to more than $50 million of additional economic value.
Ultra-high accuracy temperature forecasts for LNG operations
Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants are highly susceptible to temperature changes, particularly when temperatures exceed 40 °C or there are dramatic fluctuations, so accurate observations and forecasts are critical for successful operations. Using simple bias-correction factors, the Bureau improved localised hourly temperature forecasts for an LNG customer by approximately 22 per cent, leading to better operational planning, safety and gas supply forecasting. A correction based on modelled wind direction and investigation of individual site data were also explored. The initial results from a machine-learning approach showed that the tailored forecasts of the plant's maximum temperature were an improvement of around 36 per cent compared to the official Bureau forecast for the wider region.
The Bureau leads the way on agricultural insurance
Increased weather, climate and water variability is driving increased volatility in farm cash income and other measures of financial performance. Weather-based 'parametric' or index-based insurance products can stabilise farm income volatility and create opportunities to increase profitability. These products are currently significantly underutilised by producers and agribusinesses and innovation by insurers has been constrained by the quality and availability of on-farm weather observation data.
In collaboration with CSIRO's Data61, the Bureau launched the Trusted Private Automatic Weather Stations project (TPAWS) to address these issues. The TPAWS project alerts stakeholders when on-farm observations are likely to be inaccurate, ensuring data-driven rural services, such as insurance, are derived from consistently high-quality data. The Agriculture Program is at the forefront of the Bureau’s customer engagement and is helping to shape and refine the delivery of services to their customers. This project was the result of close engagement and collaboration across the Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the sector over the 2019–20 period.
Highlights and significant events
The islanding of South Australia, and a little bit of Victoria
When a convective downburst struck a major transmission line in Australia's electricity system in late January, the Bureau's flexibility and customer focus played a significant role in helping keep the lights on.
Extreme heat and humidity led to thunderstorms that created severe convective downbursts across parts of Victoria. One of these downbursts generated winds that damaged electricity transmission infrastructure near Cressy, in regional Victoria. Within a second, South Australia and much of southwestern Victoria was cut off from the national grid, effectively 'islanding' this huge area from the remainder of the National Electricity Market. The outage put unprecedented pressure on South Australia's electricity generation, potentially costing the industry and businesses many millions of dollars.
The frequent, in-depth forecasting services provided by the Bureau to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) were a vital support for controlling the balance of generation and demand in the transmission network. The specialist service delivered forecasts of expected cloud cover over the Adelaide metropolitan area, where rooftop solar can contribute substantially to meeting daytime energy demand. Wind forecasts were also important given the large number of wind farms through the area.
Forecasts of thunderstorms, rainfall and wind also enabled staff from AusNet Services, the Victorian transmission network owner and operator, to safely and effectively restore the connection in February.
Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 2 include:
uplifting customer-facing skills, systems, and processes to better meet customer needs; and
developing and adopting systems and processes that ensure efficient prioritisation of Bureau investments.
Outcome 3: A Bureau creating $1 billion in added economic value for Australia.
Achieving the outcome
Piloting the Buntine Highway Early Warning System
During the northern wet season, travellers can be stranded between tributaries of the Victoria River from monsoonal rainfall inundating highway crossings, sometimes requiring helicopter rescues to bring people to safety.
During the 2019–20 wet season, the Bureau successfully tested the Buntine Highway Early Warning System for the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. The system provides at least 24-hours' notice of conditions which may lead to inundation of road crossings on a remote 334-kilometre stretch of the Buntine Highway between the Victoria Highway and Kalkarindji.
A new impact-based rain and river flow for the Cooper Basin
During the year, Bureau hydrologists engaged closely with oil and gas producer Santos to understand how rain and river flow impacted its oil and gas operations in Queensland's Cooper Basin. The Bureau developed an impact-based service in close consultation with Santos, and following extensive rainfall in Queensland, the first flow service was initiated in mid-February, with weekly updates until mid-June. Even though the flooding resulted in significant impact to Santos' drill sites and operations areas, feedback on the service was overwhelmingly positive as the service helped them to better understand the impacts of rainfall events. The service reports were also provided to external stakeholders, such as landholders, who also gave positive feedback on the service.
Drought leads to spike in demand for water information
2019 was Australia's hottest and driest year on record, which saw a significant increase in the use of the Bureau's water information products, particularly Water Storages and Water Restrictions. Overall, water information products were used 780 000 times, a 40 per cent increase in usage compared to the previous year. The centralisation of Australia's water information significantly reduces transactions costs in decision-making for customers, who range from federal policy agencies through to small businesses and individuals.
Applying space weather modelling for energy security
A new Space Weather Model for electricity grid and cathodic pipeline protection from geomagnetically induced currents has been operationalised, providing electricity distribution and pipeline industries greater prediction of the impacts of geomagnetic storm effects.
Climate and extreme weather initiative kicks early goals for the electricity sector
Under the Electricity Sector Climate Information (ESCI) project, the Australian Government is providing $6.1 million over three years from 2018–19 to improve climate and extreme weather information for the electricity sector. The project, undertaken with AEMO and CSIRO, is designed to improve the reliability and resilience of the National Electricity Market to the risks from climate change and extreme weather.
The project is on-track to deliver future climate information at a fine spatial and temporal scale for specific climate variables, such as temperature and wind, that can be used to improve long-term climate risk planning for electricity infrastructure.
Highlights and significant events
Supporting Operation Bushfire Assist
The Bureau provided critical support to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) during Operation Bushfire Assist 2020, epitomising the Bureau's commitment to the safety of the Australian community. Evacuation operations conducted by sea and by air were directly informed by the Bureau's meteorologists and services.
When the Emergency Warning was issued for the east of Victoria, the Bureau's Senior Defence Meteorologist at RAAF Base East Sale and operational meteorologists in Melbourne were there to assist the ADF response. Up to 50 pilots and crew were briefed daily by Bureau meteorologists, focusing on keeping the ADF aviators flying safely in unprecedented conditions with massive smoke plumes, volatile winds and raging fires generating their own storms. Commander of the ADF Rotary Wing Aviation Task Force, responsible for evacuating residents during the bushfire season, specifically commended the Bureau's efforts.
The Bureau's ocean forecasts were also used in real time for planning, preparation, and evacuation of residents from the fire-affected areas. Oceanographic systems were used by Navy officers to generate high-resolution ocean and wave forecasts for the coast covering Mallacoota and Eden. Data on surface currents were provided to HMAS Choules and Adelaide.
The Defence Meteorological Support Unit at Headquarters Joint Operation Command in Canberra provided decision support to operations planning. These staff were critical in supporting decisions made by ADF response across multiple States and Territories. Upon request, the team prepared and supplied a tailored briefing pack and geospatial datasets with burn area overlays that were used extensively in planning the response activities.
Supporting Australian interests in Antarctica
Knowing what the weather is doing in Antarctica can be a matter of life and death, and the ongoing role the Bureau has played since the very first Australian expeditions are central to its mission.
During 2019–20, the Bureau partnered with the Australian Antarctic Division to support the development of an aerodrome at Davis Station that will be accessible all year round. This will significantly increase Australia's capability and capacity for Antarctic science, support the safety of expeditioners and strengthen Australia's commitment to the Antarctic Treaty. The Bureau contribution will include increased atmospheric monitoring, modellings of the weather conditions, advice on sea ice conditions and assessments of hazards to aviation operations.
Over the coming years this project will provide investment required to uplift the delivery of services supporting safe and efficient transport by air and sea to one of the most remote locations on Earth.
During the year, the Bureau also developed a new weather service capability to support a proof of concept flight for a RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft into Wilkins Runway near Casey Station, despite delays in the Antarctic aviation program due to above average temperatures impacting runway conditions.
Key activities to be delivered in 2020–21 to help achieve Outcome 3 include:
advancing Australia’s foreign policy, security, international development assistance and science goals in the Asia-Pacific, Southern Ocean and Antarctica; and
promoting greater use of the Bureau's data, knowledge, insight and wisdom by Australia's water, energy, resources, aviation, transport and agriculture industries.