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Warwick McDonald with the Bureau’s tape storage library. Its capacity is about 300 times the amount of information in the 30 million books in the US Library of Congress. A sediment plume exits the Burdekin River heading for the Great Barrier Reef in January 2011. Satellite monitoring of sediment plumes may be a task for the Bureau's new environmental group.  Picture: NASA

December: Orchestrating the National Plan for Environmental Information

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WARWICK McDonald sees himself as conducting an orchestra with a truly daunting repertoire, establishing the many collaborations that will make possible the National Plan for Environmental Information. In 2010, the Bureau of Meteorology, with its broad-based environmental intelligence services, was given operational responsibility for this ambitious initiative.

“Benefits will accrue when we are able to produce high-quality environmental accounts, the same way we can for the economy,” Warwick says. “Governments, industry and communities need comprehensive, trusted and timely environmental information to manage natural capital responsibly.”

Our landscapes, oceans, water, atmosphere and biodiversity play an important role in the economy – from agriculture and mining to energy production and tourism – as well as being fundamental to our way of life. The initiative will establish priorities, coordinate activities, begin building environmental datasets and related infrastructure, and will develop environmental accounting methods.