Too many chiefs, not enough indians

Minimum temperature outlook map

Did you know that 85.1% of the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) staff are classified as APS6 or higher? That means the overwhelming majority of people in BoM are classified as senior management with executive responsibilities within the public service. The APS website notes the following:

An APS Level 6 employee would generally be required to undertake work that is complex in nature, work under limited direction with the opportunity for reasonable autonomy and accountability. Employees at this level exercise both initiative and judgment in the interpretation of policy and in the application of practices and procedures.

Of the 1,671 staff, the BoM has 3 apprentices, 5 graduates, 1 APS level 1, 3 APS level 2, 61 APS level 3, 29 APS level 4 and 115 APS level 5. All data gleaned from the Annual Report 2017-18. Almost $180m in salaries are spent on them.

Is there a real need to have so much senior management, especially as the outputs have come under much scrutiny in recent years? The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has 50.8% of its staff in APS6 positions or above. It too is a data collector. Shouldn’t seniority numbers more closely align with the ABS at the BoM?

The Deptartment of Environment & Energy has 51% of its staff at APS level 6 and above. The Department of Finance 57.2%. DFAT 67%. The Department of Health 71%. Alarming that half of staff are in senior positions in many government agencies, but 85% for BoM?

Should we be surprised at the number of hiccups with measuring equipment when the BoM’s field offices have consolidated from 55 to 36 in the last 5 years? Should we applaud the consolidation as decisive leadership on cost containment or question larger sized field offices leading to suboptimal reporting outcomes and the propensity for making mistakes from remote stations?

JoNova notes a whole raft of incidents at the BoM. From using temperatures in Victoria to help adjust temps in Tasmania to installing thermometers atop hot tin roofing and bitumen. Homogenized data. The lot. It is frankly disgraceful.

Several highly dedicated amateur meteorologists are methodically going through the BOM’s weather stations. Approximately 18% of them do not meet the BOM’s own criteria for “best practice”. Not only that but the BOM’s electronic thermometers record the temperature every second. The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) states that records must be continuously averaged over each running two minutes to cut out the risk of temperature “spikes”. However the BOM refuses to do this meaning that a thermometer at the edge of an airport, for example,  receives a three second spike from a taxiing aircraft, that becomes set as the maximum temperature for the day.

Remember the BoM went on the offensive claiming the hottest day ever until having to retreat with a tweet,

#SydneyHeat: Sorry, in our earlier checks we missed a 47.8 degrees C temperature recorded at an old #Richmond station (now closed) in 1939. 47.3 today still beats the previous #Penrith record.

Yes it was hot, but so eager to push their warming bias, that they fell foul to poor governance controls.

Of the 1,671 staff, only 55 are recorded as ‘research scientists.‘ While this number has grown in recent years, shouldn’t the BoM be investing in more people to ensure the data isn’t prone to so many errors?

For an organization that spends nearly $400m pa, shouldn’t things be reassessed? Shouldn’t the government look at how much bloat is in the BoM ranks? Don’t hold your breath at the new blood entering BoM. Trainees undertaking the Grad Dip in Meteorology is at a 10 year low.

Is a Royal Commission into our BoM not being conducted for fear of discrediting the practices of an organisation that must be revered by we mere peons for our temperature data?

With so many chiefs and not enough indians, is it any wonder that the BoM seems more about the politics of weather than the actual science?

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