I just realised that the new capabilities of the Sydney BOM radar aren’t just something that I had missed before, rather they are indeed new. The Buero brought online their new Terry Hills radar (on 9/9/09). Here is their media release (from Wednesday 9 September 2009).
New Sydney weather radar now online
Sydney has a new state-of-the-art weather radar that will help forecasters and the community see in greater detail upcoming weather – including severe weather such as thunderstorms.
The Doppler weather radar was launched today at Terrey Hills by Australia’s Director of Meteorology, Dr Greg Ayers.
The new radar is more sensitive and uses the latest technology to provide clearer radar images at a higher resolution than previously possible. It replaces one that has been operating at Appin, south of Sydney since 1992.
Commissioning the radar, Dr Ayers noted the significance of its range which spans Sydney and surrounding areas – “an area that is home to more than a quarter of the Australian population.”
“Weather radars play an important role in helping the community prepare for and manage the threats posed by extreme weather.”
The Bureau’s Regional Director for New South Wales, Barry Hanstrum said the improved capability offered by this new radar will help forecasters “more easily detect and track thunderstorms in the Sydney area and detect dangerous wind changes during the fire season.”
The new radar animation, covering the previous half hour’s weather, now consists of six images, one every six minutes where as previously it was just four images. “This upgrade will certainly provide a new level of detail about weather in the Sydney area,” Mr Hanstrum said.
“The greater sensitivity of the radar will also assist in better detection of drizzle and light shower activity over Sydney.”
This new Doppler weather radar is the fifth of six new high resolution radars to come online as part of the Australian Government’s $62.2 million dollar radar upgrade project.
Recently the Government announced a further $48 million program to install four new radars around Australia as well as invest in the underlying science to integrate this technology into the current radar network. Imagery from the Bureau’s network of weather radars is available on the Bureau of Meteorology website www.bom.gov.au
—http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/nsw/20090909.shtml, © Copyright Commonwealth of Australia 2009, Bureau of Meteorology (ABN 92 637 533 532). Information is presented with the permission of the Bureau.
This is great news! Higher resolution radar images, new images every 6 minutes, a Doppler wind map. They have some nice documentation which I’ll read when I get a chance. The only thing I don’t like is the radar loop only shows the last 30 minutes. This is nothing to do with the radar, just the web interface. But the situation is not too bad, they have all the radar maps/data available through their FTP site, and they have a permissible licence which allows republication of this data, so anyone is free to build their own interface which could allow you to loop through more than just the last 30 minutes (which is something I have on my TODO list). But, I think they only keep something like the last hour or 1h42min of radar images on their HTTP/FTP servers so you would need an always on machine to ensure you have all the data.
Very interesting stuff here, but I have a couple of points. Mind you I don’t have much experience here, I’m not a journalist or an economist…
1. Government Subsidiary for Quality Journalism
One of my main concerns here is that you have two negative forces. On one hand you have the government paying for investigative journalism, but those journalists are having to fight the government to get the story to break. Would there be a need for investigative journalism in the government arena if the government was more open? You wouldn’t need the journalist filing freedom of information requests if the department put this info into the public domain by default. The solution is for the government to be more open and transparent, something which they seem to do a lot of talk about (and are doing some things that make them open), but not nearly enough.
But the government or the government departments are probably unwilling to put information out there that may embarras them. Unfortuantly you probably need so driving for that motivates government departments to be more open. I see an online “village pump” where the community can gather and build up in numbers to support certain movements (such as access to certain statistics that may be part of a journalists investigation). Those numbers are a force that could provide pressure for an unwilling government department.
Nick Davies said that “what you haven’t got is citizen journalists covering the courts or the government departments or the police or the hospitals or the schools or doing investigations.” He quoted lack of “skills, time or resources” as the reason for this. I don’t believe this. A large chuck of the feeds I subscribe to are citizens blogging about copyright decisions made in court. Perhaps it is lack of cooperation of the government department. For example they charge huge unreasonable fees for your FOI application. I don’t see the solution as get a big company who can pay the fees, rather use some other methods to pressure the department into providing the information needed for investigative journalism free or charge, free for all.