The National Weather Service and Australia’s Bureau Of Meteorology

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been staying in Melbourne, Australia. The food here is quite good and it’s a place that I’ve always wanted to see. I’m in the middle of their winter season in Australia, so it’s been quite chilly. During my stay, I had the opportunity to see and talk with fellow meteorologists at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. I was fortunately enough to receive a private tour and learned a great deal about the operations of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology versus the National Weather Service here in the U.S.

Of course, both agencies provide detailed weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather and other operations to inform the public. But there are differences between the two agencies, especially in the number of offices. For example, the National Weather Service has 122 local Weather Forecast Offices across the country, including Spokane,which provides forecasts for eastern Washington and North Idaho. In Australia, a continent that is similar in size to the Lower 48, has the main office in Melbourne and 8 state or territorial offices. There are also 14 smaller field stations throughout the continent.

Most of the U.S. forecasts are issued from local offices, including fire weather that relates to wildfires in the region. There are also aviation forecasts for area airports as well as severe weather alerts.

In Australia, much of the severe weather forecasts and climate data are consolidated in the main office in Melbourne and selected territories. Here in the U.S., other offices for specific types of weather events are located in various parts of the country. For example, the Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma, in cooperation with local offices, provides severe thunderstorm and tornado forecasts for the entire country. Hurricane outlooks are from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s main office in Melbourne, as well as regional offices, includes a Regional Forecasting Center, a Flood Warning Center, a National Tidal Unit and Regional Specialized Meteorological Center. The agency issues forecasts for every airport in Australia.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology also has an office for volcanic ash to monitor the volcanoes in Indonesia. The Bureau has a Tsunami Warning Center. There are Tropical Warning Centers as they issue advisories and the names of storms surrounding Australia. The agency also has space weather department to monitor solar winds, X-ray flares, geomagnetic activity and more. Their climate division will monitor sea-surface temperatures to provide regular forecasts for El Nino and La Nina events.

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It’s been a very hot August across the Inland Northwest. There were two days with highs at or above the 100-degree mark in Coeur d’Alene. On Aug. 9, the mercury hit 100 degrees, and we set a record with 104 degrees on Aug. 10. The old record on that date was 101 degrees in 1986. Although it’s been pretty hot this summer, Cliff says Aug. 10 was the only day we broke a heat record.

Prior to Aug. 10, the last time Coeur d’Alene hit was over 100 degrees was on Aug. 13, 2015. Despite more very warm temperatures over the next few days, Cliff and I believe that we’ve already seen the hottest day for 2018 in North Idaho.

Cliff tells me that the average reading for July was about 5 degrees above normal. Earlier this month, the mean temperature for this month was a whopping 10 degrees above average levels. In addition to the hot weather, the first 16 days in August were the driest in history, as there was not even a trace of moisture. There were only two other years since 1895 in Coeur d’Alene when conditions were completely dry during the first half of August.

The West continues to be dominated by a very strong ridge of high pressure. The hot and dry weather pattern has helped fuel many wildfires across our region, taking our air quality to unhealthy levels. For the first 9 days of the month, the air quality levels in Coeur d’Alene were mostly in the moderate category.

On Aug. 10, readings climbed to above 100, taking the level to “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” The air was briefly better until Aug. 13, when the level jumped to “Unhealthy” with a reading of 156. Since then, the air quality in Coeur d’Alene has been unhealthy for sensitive groups. It does appear that conditions should be improving later this week as temperatures will be cooling down.

Moisture totals for Coeur d’Alene for July through Sunday are a puny 0.06 inches. Last year, the combined total for these two months were .10 inches. Cliff and I still see dry, hazy and smoky weather ahead, but there may be some isolated showers or a thunderstorm late in the week.

There are hints that this extremely dry weather pattern might start to change as we get toward the last week of the month. Cliff sees moisture already starting to feed from the Sea of Japan into the Gulf of Alaska. When we start to see this type of pattern develop, our region should start see the effects in about 10 days or so. Therefore, the upcoming “full moon” lunar cycle that begins on Aug. 26 may bring an increasing chance of rainfall to our region around that date.

In September and October, we expect to see conditions across the Inland Northwest flip from the extremely dry to wetter than normal. Cliff still predicts that we’ll have another 18 inches of moisture for the last quarter of 2018. But, snowfall totals this upcoming winter season are expected to be below normal.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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