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Improving Top End weather forecasts

Elysium EPL resident Oceanographer Ruth Patterson PhD shares her thoughts on weather and climate forecasting in Australia's Top End is so hard to get right, and how improved ocean observation can make a difference.

Every year, lives are at risk in remote Northern Territory coastlines due to poor weather forecasts, ultimately driven by sparse ocean data. Remote communities, such as Borroloola are currently living this experience, after damaging weather from Tropical Cyclone Megan hampered evacuation efforts by the Australian Government.

Forecasting extreme weather events is difficult even for well-resourced and well-monitored regions. In the NT and across the Top End our ocean monitoring capability is almost zero, and there is no in-situ research into tropical cyclones in this region.

The Bureau of Meteorology are world-leaders in weather forecasting; its team does their best with the resources they have. But they are limited by lack of ocean observations in the Top End. In Australia, the Bureau supports ocean monitoring, but it’s not their main responsibility.

So who is responsible for monitoring Top End waters? The Top End! As Territorians, we know what will and won't work in our environment and for our unique traditional and contemporary culture, so it is up to us to build capability and push for national funding and change. The 'Southern States' will play a huge role in this, but #Territorians must take the lead.

At Elysium EPL we are building capability in the NT by adopting locally appropriate technology and creating new methodologies for accessing our open-ocean and remote regions in ways that works for us. We provide the only local, independent oceanographic monitoring service in the Northern Territory in Australia. If you are a Territorian or non-Territorian organisation interested in collaborating and building this capability for the Top End, get in touch with Ruth today.


Ruth Patterson is a local leader in physical and ecological oceanographic research with over 16 years of experience in the Northern Territory, spanning government, industry, research and Defence. Ruth is a subject matter expert in the design and operation of appropriate technology for marine environmental

monitoring, particularly in remote locations. She has applied those skills to environmental impact assessments, Indigenous knowledge transfer on sea country, and data collection for hydrodynamic and

biophysical modelling in the Northern Territory marine domain.

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