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Forecasters face heavy weather

Date

Bridie Smith

A COLD front from Canberra is forecast to bring a patchy covering of weather forecasters at a time when increased weather events are predicted, according to an independent review.

Released yesterday, the review warns that federal government cuts have coincided with an increased number of extreme weather events, with the Bureau of Meteorology having to call in recently retired staff and temporary contractors to manage the workload during natural disasters.

The report found the Bureau of Meteorology lacked the ''surge capacity'' required to respond to major events such as floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Meanwhile, climate change modelling suggests the number and severity of natural disasters is set to increase. Completed last December, one of the recommendations is for a boost in meteorologist numbers.

Led by businesswoman Chloe Munro, the report points out that there has been close to a 10-fold increase in the number of severe weather warnings issued by the bureau since 1997 - from 200 a year to more than 1800 - and the alerts ''have even greater significance for the protection of life and property''.

The bureau has more than 1500 staff but fewer than 100 front-line meteorologists, and 42 staff dedicated to flood warning and forecasting.

''Services were delivered only by virtue of dedicated individuals working well beyond what could be regarded as reasonable or even safe hours,'' Ms Munro said.

The government has committed $4.8 million for up to 20 expert meteorologists and the recruitment and training of 10 new local meteorologists and 10 additional flood forecasters.

- with AAP

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