The future of weather services for the Barkly

The Bureau of Meteorology is continuing to modernise and automate its observation systems to deliver better services to remote and regional communities throughout the Northern Territory.

Weather forecasts and warnings for Tennant Creek and the Barkly are based on a combination of many different observing systems, which allow forecasters to monitor and predict approaching weather. With the installation of a vertical wind profiler at Tennant Creek in 2012, the radar balloon-tracking function is no longer required. Funding to operate the radar will end on 30 June 2015. It will then be decommissioned.

Community safety will not be compromised by the decommissioning of the radar. The Bureau will continue to provide high quality information to support medical evacuations and emergency services, including the continued provision of tailored advice where requested. The Bureau is also making increased use of satellites and investing in other technologies that provide coverage right across the Barkly, and all of Australia.

Satellite-based thunderstorm tracking on the way for the entire Barkly

From mid-August 2015 well before the start of the wet season the Bureau will provide 10-minute updates of weather conditions across Australia from the new Japanese Himawari-8 Satellite.

True colour visible image from the Himawari-8 satellite.

True colour visible image from the Himawari-8 satellite.

Later in the year we will add real-time lightning observation data, with the combination of these enabling the community, for the first time ever, to track thunderstorms at 10-minute intervals (the same frequency as radar) anywhere across the Barkly district, and indeed anywhere right across Australia.

Forecasts for wherever you live

During this past year, the Bureau has significantly increased the quality and availability of weather forecasts to the Barkly district. Since October 2014, 7-day town forecasts have been available for Elliott, Cresswell Downs, Avon Downs, Barrow Creek, Ali Curung, Alpurrurulam and Ampilatwatja as well as Tennant Creek. In addition, 3-hour temperature, wind and rain forecasts are available for 7 days, for any 6 km square location throughout the Territory via the Bureau's MetEye service.

Example MetEye forecast for the Barkly.

Example MetEye forecast for the Barkly.

Specialised services

The Bureau continues to produce special aviation products for Tennant Creek, including sets of observations called Meteorological Aerodrome Weather Reports (METARs), as well as Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs).

About the Tennant Creek radar

The Bureau's radar at Tennant Creek was installed for tracking weather balloons, in order to monitor winds in the upper atmosphere. This function began in 1972 and ceased in 2012. The weather-watch function has been available, mainly as a part-time function, since a refurbishment in 2005.

The radar is scheduled to close on Tuesday 30 June 2015, when funding for the two-year recommissioning of the radar, announced by the Australian Government on 1 February 2013, comes to an end.

This follows the removal of the Eucla radar in 2012, and more recently the removal of ageing radars at Sydney, Cairns and Rockhampton airports. Like the Tennant Creek radar, these radars were originally installed for tracking weather balloons but, as a result of the introduction of new technology, such as the vertical wind profiler installed at Tennant Creek in 2012, this function is no longer required.

The Tennant Creek radar is one of the oldest in the Bureau's network, and is well past its operational life.

The cost of ongoing maintenance to keep the Tennant Creek radar in service is increasing, and many replacement parts are no longer available. The state of the radar and its key associated systems is such that the risk of a major failure is high.

A vertical wind profiler was
		installed at Tennant Creek in 2012, replacing the need for weather

A vertical wind profiler was installed at Tennant Creek in 2012, replacing the need for weather balloons.

Summary of future weather observation services for Tennant Creek and the Barkly district

Observation type Current service Future service
Weather watch radar 10 minute frequency Ends 30 June 2015
Automatic Weather Station (temperature, rain, humidity, pressure, 10 metre wind) Half hourly frequency No change
Geostationary satellite imagery 1 hourly frequency from MTSAT-2 Visible images at 1 km resolution; infra-red images at 4 km resolution 10 minute frequency from Himawari-8 weather satellite, available to public from mid-August 2015 Visible images at up to 500 m resolution; infra-red images at 2 km resolution
Lightning stroke detection Available to Bureau forecasters 10 minute frequency, available to public from late 2015
Wind profiler Available to Bureau forecasters No change

Where to find forecasts and warnings on the Bureau website