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Research Guides


Collections in Perth: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records


20. Meteorology

In conjunction with astronomical observations, meteorological observations commenced in Western Australia with the founding of the Swan River Colony in 1829. Official recordings of the Colony's rainfall, however, did not start until 1875 when the Surveyor-General of the time, Sir Malcolm Fraser, began taking readings in what was then known as the Perth Botanical Gardens and is now the Supreme Court Gardens.

After 1 June 1906, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility, through the Postmaster-General's Department, for meteorological observations, and in 1907 the position of Commonwealth Meteorologist was established, with Henry Ambrose Hunt as the first appointee.

The Agencies

In 1908, the six State meteorological departments were absorbed into the Commonwealth Branch (Bureau) of Meteorology. A divisional officer was responsible for Western Australian operations. This meteorologist was charged with taking and recording meteorological observations, forecasting weather, issuing storm warnings and distributing meteorological information.

After 1955 the Bureau of Meteorology became the sole authority for the provision of meteorological services throughout Australia and its Territories. The bureau's functions were broadened to include issuing warnings of gales, storms, tropical cyclones, floods and bushfire conditions. It also provided meteorological advice and undertook research, and was responsible for providing special services to the Defence forces and to the shipping, aviation, primary and commerce industries.

In common with other Commonwealth agencies, the Bureau of Meteorology was dependent on the assistance of State Government employees and other people to perform its functions. The collection of weather-related data around WA was actually carried out by postal employees, lighthouse keepers, Customs and Immigration officers, and even members of the public (such as publicans and farmers) well into the twentieth century.

  • 1852–1908: Government Astronomer of Western Australia (CA 7414)
  • 1908–50: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office (CA 3992)
  • 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as Bureau of Meteorology, WA (CA 2355)

The Records

The Bureau of Meteorology and its predecessors generated thousands of metres of records that continue to be of value to researchers. Although official meteorological observations did not begin until 1875, the Perth Office of the National Archives holds records describing meteorological conditions in the Swan River Colony between 1830 and 1875.

The series K127 contains synoptic charts of great importance. The series starts in 1896 and although the charts were initially drawn in South Australia, they describe the daily weather pattern for Western Australia.

The list of series below, although far from complete, gives an indication of the vast size of record holdings for this subject. Moreover, the assistance given to the Bureau of Meteorology means that records dealing with meteorology exist in series created by other agencies.

The agencies responsible for the meteorology function divided WA into specific areas and many records – especially rainfall (and other) observation charts – are held in district number order.

METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS, SWAN RIVER SETTLEMENT AREA, 1830–75
Perth
Records in this series document daily basic meteorological observations (eg temperature, barometric pressure, wind direction and climatic conditions) for the Swan River Colony.
Series: PP430/1
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1830–75: Government Astronomer of Western Australia (CA 7414)
DAILY RAINFALL RETURNS, RAINFALL AND RIVER OBSERVATIONS, METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS AND METEOROLOGICAL REGISTERS, DISTRICT CODE NUMBER ORDER, 1852–1975
Perth
Series: PP647/1
Quantity: 10.62 metres
Recorded by: 1852–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 9332); 1955–75: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
REGISTERS OF METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER WITHIN RECORDING STATION, 1852–
Perth
Series: K994
Quantity: 5.76 metres
Recorded by: 1852–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
RAINFALL OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS REGISTERS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1876–
Perth
Series: K1002
Quantity: 2.52 metres
Recorded by: 1876–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
DAILY RAINFALL RETURNS, RAINFALL AND RIVER OBSERVATIONS, METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS AND METEOROLOGICAL REGISTERS, DISTRICT CODE NUMBER ORDER, 1877–1975
Perth
Series: PP598/1
Quantity: 29.7 metres
Recorded by: 1877–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–75: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
PHENOMENAL RAINFALL RECORDS, WA, 1884–1937
Perth
These records are found in one volume showing WA towns, areas or recording stations that received above average or phenomenal rainfalls. Particular note should be taken of rainfall recorded during the extraordinary cyclonic disturbance of 19 March 1917.
Series: PP430/14
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1884–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–37: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992)
TEMPERATURE, CLOUD AND HUMIDITY REGISTER, 1887–1929
Perth
Series: PP485/5
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1887–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–29: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992)
BAROGRAPH CHARTS, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY RECORDING STATION, 1888–
Perth
This series consists of graph sheets, drawn using a revolving drum and stylus, of measurements and recordings of daily and weekly barometric pressure.
Series: K25
Quantity: 5.31 metres
Recorded by: 1888–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
METEOROLOGICAL REGISTER, BREAKSEA ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE, WA, 1895–96
Perth
The register in this series contains meteorological observations and climatic conditions made by lighthouse staff on Breaksea Island, WA.
Series: PP430/17
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1895–96: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414)
SYNOPTIC WEATHER CHARTS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1896–
Perth
This series contains charts of the isobaric weather pattern for the Australian continent, recorded at various intervals on a daily basis.
Series: K127
Quantity: 250 metres
Recorded by: 1896–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology, WA (CA 2355)
THERMOGRAPH CHARTS, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY RECORDING STATION, 1908–
Perth
This series consists of graph sheets, drawn with a revolving drum and stylus, of measurements and recordings of daily and weekly temperatures taken at various recording stations in WA.
Series: K27
Quantity: 1.98 metres
Recorded by: 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
ANEMOMETER AND PLUVIOMETER RECORDS (SELF-REGISTERING), 1910–31
Perth
This series consists of four volumes of daily recordings of rainfall and wind velocities, taken at hourly intervals by self-registering anemometers and pluviometers.
Series: PP430/6
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1910–31: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992)
WEATHER BULLETINS, WA, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1914–
Perth
This series contains consolidated records of weather observations from reporting stations in WA. Observations recorded include cloud type and cover, wind speed and direction, barometer and temperature readings, rainfall and sea swell (for coastal regions).
Series: K1000
Quantity: 2.7 metres
Recorded by: 1914–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1917–71
Perth
This series contains general correspondence files about policy, precedent and staffing, and the development of meteorological services and observing stations in WA. They include notes on the compilation of weather phenomena and the expansion of weather forecasting services for the aviation and agricultural industries.
Series: PP470/1
Quantity: 15.48 metres
Recorded by: 1917–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–71: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, WA (CA 2355)
WATHEROO MAGNETIC OBSERVATORY, WA, METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATION FIELD BOOKS, 1918–58
Perth
The field notebooks in this series show weather reports made at the Watheroo Magnetic Observatory.
Series: PP423.6
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1918–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–58: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, WA (CA 2355)
ANEMOGRAPH CHARTS, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY STATION, 1940–
Perth
This series contains graph sheets of wind speed (first in miles per hour and later in kilometres per hour) and wind direction (degrees from true north) measurements made by recording stations in WA.
Series: K702
Quantity: 35.1 metres
Recorded by: 1940–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
SUNSHINE RECORDER CARDS, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY RECORDING STATION, 1940–
Perth
This series contains crescent-shaped cards used for registering hours of sunlight on any one day.
Series: K703
Quantity: 3.4 ,etres
Recorded by: 1940–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
HYGROGRAPH CHARTS, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY RECORDING STATION, 1943–
Perth
The graphed charts in this series record relative atmospheric humidity at recording stations in WA.
Series: K948
Quantity: 1.44 metres
Recorded by: 1943–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
TROPICAL CYCLONE CASE HISTORIES, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1955–
Perth
Series: K259
Quantity: 40.14 metres
Recorded by: 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
REPORTS OF THUNDERSTORM OBSERVATIONS, WA, 1961–63
Perth
Reports submitted by observers in WA of thunderstorm activity in their areas.
Series: PP184/1
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1961–63: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, WA (CA 2355)
THUNDERSTORM OBSERVATIONS, 1964–73
Perth
Series: PP523/3
Quantity: 2.34 metres
Recorded by: 1964–73: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)
INDIAN OCEAN ANALYSIS CHARTS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1968–
Perth
This series contains weather analysis charts of conditions at certain times of the day over the Indian Ocean and mainland Australia.
Series: K806
Quantity: 13.14 metres
Recorded by: 1968–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office (by 1973, known as the Bureau of Meteorology), WA (CA 2355)

Geophysics

The Agencies

The Carnegie Institution of Washington, United States of America, ran the Watheroo Observatory from around 1933 until after World War II when the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics took control of its operations. Developed to observe the magnetic and seismological activity of the earth, the observatory was generally staffed by five geophysicists and various clerical staff.

In 1959 the observatory was relocated to two new installations, Gnangara and Mundaring. Gnangara became the magnetic recording station while Mundaring became the main office and the seismological and ionospheric recording station.

  • 1933–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679)
  • 1959–: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)

The Records

In 1968 the town of Meckering, WA was close to the epicentre of an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale. Sixteen people were injured and most of the town's buildings were destroyed. The measurement of this and other earthquakes can be found in seismic records from the Mundaring Geophysical Observatory.

SEISMOGRAMS, 1933–61 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1905–61)
Perth
This series contains charts that record information about the earth's movements, including the precise time of arrival of waves and the direction and amplitude of ground movement.
Series: PP235/1
Quantity: 5.4 metres
Recorded by: 1933–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1959–61: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
PERTH SEISMOLOGY TABULATIONS AND REPORTS, 1933–63 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1907–63)
Perth
This series contains reports and tabulations of seismic activity recorded in the Perth area
Series: PP235/3
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1933–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1959–63: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
WATHEROO MAGNETIC OBSERVATORY AND MUNDARING GEOPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY, CORRESPONDENCE ON GEOPHYSICAL DATA, 1933–66 (CONTENTS RANGE 1922–66)
Perth
This series contains reports on, and requests for, miscellaneous geophysical data from other geophysical institutions.
Series: PP287/1
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1933–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1959–66: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
MAGNETOGRAMS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1947–
Perth
This series contains daily recordings of the earth's magnetic field taken at the Watheroo recording station until 1959 and thereafter at the Gnangara recording station.
Series: K182
Quantity: 6.48 metres
Recorded by: 1947–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1947–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
IONOGRAMS, 1967
Perth
This series contains data on the celestial behaviour of the ionosphere recorded on 35mm film.
Series: PP284/3
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1967: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
MAGNETIC OBSERVATIONS, GNANGARA, WA, 1957–64
Perth
Records in this series contain magnetic observations such as preliminary mean values, horizontal intensity, declination, and vertical intensity.
Series: PP254/6
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1957–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1959–64: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
SEISMOGRAMS – GRAPH RECORDINGS FROM EACH SEISMOGRAPH STATION, 1958–74
Perth
Series: PP621/1
Quantity: 27 metres
Recorded by: 1958–59: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679); 1959–74: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)
IONOGRAM RECORDS (EX WATHEROO), 1940–58
Perth
Series: PP254/2
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1940–58: Watheroo Magnetic Observatory, WA (CA 3679)
SEISMOGRAMS (PRINT-OUT) – FIELD RECORDS OF AFTER-SHOCKS IN GREENHILLS AREA, 1968
Perth
Series: PP621/10
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1968: Mundaring Geophysical Observatory, WA (CA 3539)

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