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Simon the wonder forecaster

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Farming is an occupation where financial viability is often determined by events beyond our control.

Children, an excellent traditional source of free labour, have the propensity to irresponsibly leave the family farm at around the age of 20 to look for a paying job, search for some nooky, or plug into Australia’s social welfare payroll from a more prestigious address such as Surfers Paradise.
Politicians mess with our livelihoods yet we are not permitted to shoot or castrate them as we would any other feral pest. Rural life is just one disappointment followed by another.
Weather is farming’s greatest uncertainty. In Australia we have one of the most technologically advanced organisations in the world charged with monitoring and predicting weather.
For the last 20 years at 6.35 every morning I have turned on ABC radio to hear various blokes (until recently they were all male) from the Bureau of Meteorology making weather predictions.

If I were a cynical man I might be tempted to tar all these forecasters with the same brush; i.e. they are overpaid useless bureaucratic wankers who lounge around with eyes glued to computer screens all day in comfortably airconditioned bunkers, and toilet-trained monkeys could make more accurate forecasts by simply sitting on the roof using instinct coupled with superior intellectual capacity.

The Bucket does NOT tolerate intolerance such as this.
Cynicism might be a useful nail with which to deflate the tyre of mindless certainty, but in this case it fails to take into account all the proficient weathermen….. like Simon.
Simon, aka Sanjay, was welcomed into the portico of my local Weather Bureau in 2009 by a wizened hirsute sitarist and the Indian Consul General who delivered a rather lengthy speech about bilateral relationships before everyone tucked into a free breakfast of barbecued beef sausages with onion rings and tomato sauce on wholemeal buns.

Simon’s enviable reputation as Andhra Pradesh’s premier weather guru had preceded him, and it came to pass that indeed Simon had unique powers of meteorological prediction. “Yes it will be rainings on next Tuesday but only until one quarter past ten in the morning time with the numbers of millimetres being thirty five and goodness gracious me I am seeing the sun will be shining at two o’clock in the exact moment.”
And every time Simon predicted rainings in the exact amounts, and sunshinings in the precise moments, it happened.

For three years he never made a mistake and his reputation grew exponentially. Simon became a celebrity. Aussie forecasters were jealous. Women swooned and Simon received marriage proposals from besotted meteorology students and professional gold-diggers.

Felicity-Jane Hobgoblin, Miss Twin Peaks U.S.A., submitted an irresistible handwritten application tucked neatly into a subtly perfumed item of intimate apparel. Simon, despite being betrothed to a young lady in Mumbai who had been selected by his parents on the basis of bullion ownership and potential fecundity rather than physical beauty, could not resist calling Felicity-Jane.

He nervously dialed the fifteen digits until the phone was answered on the seventh ring and……………..






…..then I woke up.



The wonderful world of barets………….and coffee.

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baret = drainage ditch  (in Melanesian Tok Pisin)




Ask my daughter and she’ll tell you in quite colourful language that I have an obsession with digging and maintaining barets. It’s my spade and shovel physical workout. Popeye biceps and barrel chests do not maintain themselves just with spinach you know.

So what’s with all the barets?  We live close to Australia’s wettest meteorological station which is located on top of Mt Bellenden Ker. (It’s records include 5.3 metres of rain during January 1979, and 12.4 metres total for the year 2000.)

I have around 200 metres of barets on this farm. They prevent my gravel roads, marijuana plantations, buried bullion, plant nurseries and buildings from being washed down the mountain and ending up in the hands of some undeserving layabout mooching around on the coastal plain at Innisfail.

The road barets are very important to prevent scouring of my steep 300 metre gravel driveway. The following pictures illustrate why the local Council should be employing me at the rate of K100 per annum to oversee maintenance of it’s road network instead of the incumbent indolent and incompetent slackarse.

GOF road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

GOF road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

Council road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days

Council road after 100 inches of rain in 100 days


Council have NO functional barets, whereas I have seven magnificent ones.
Number 1 is at the top of the hill. Next one down is Number 3, then Number 7 followed by Number 2, (I maintain a conscientious objection to numerical order) and then, right near the steep corner is my pride and joy. An engineering masterpiece. The mother of all road barets…    NUMBER FIVE….one foot deep and two feet wide.

Baret Number 5 doing nothing

Baret Number 5 doing nothing

Baret number 5 midway through recent 12" rainfall in one day

Baret number 5 midway through recent 12″ rainfall in one day


Baret Number 5 has two purposes;
1.  To capture and redirect floodwater.
2.  To trap and/or deter door-to-door salesmen and other unwanted visitors, including Katerina and Katya the Russian twins who keep sending emails twice every week saying they want to do some things that my mother never told me about.

Every few weeks I need to shovel silt and leaves out of my barets and collect any other miscellaneous debris which might have accumulated.

I found the following objects in, or adjacent to, baret No 5 during the first quarter of this year. If any of them belong to you, please contact me so I can arrange their safe return.



1 only Volkswagon towbar with a cutoff tennis ball protecting the towball.
1 only sump plug and four litres of used engine oil. (now gritty)
6 only assorted exhaust systems complete with mufflers …..probably suit small Mazdas or Hyundais.
1 only Honda Civic plastic bumper bar with a “Bonk a smallholder farmer now before they’re all gone” sticker attached.
(I didn’t have these stickers printed for bloody city slickers to whack on their woosy toy-plastic bumper bars. They’re for proper 4WD bull bars.)
1 complete Volvo station wagon (white) with fluffy dice hanging from the rear vision mirror, and a “Jesus loves you” message on the rear window. There are two large boxes filled with “Watchtower” magazines on the back seat.


Thank you.





Oh yes, and I’ve just discovered a new coffee shop in Cairns.
Why was it not there 40 years ago when I was in the mood for this sort of thing?
Sadly, in the wake of my senescence, I no longer have a passion for caffeine.
Bang and Grind3


Cyclone Ita report………..and thank you.

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Cyclone Ita track prediction.

Cyclone Ita track prediction.

It is with profound thankfulness and appreciation that I write these words today… 2 am in the calm which always follows a departing tropical storm.

Firstly I thank YOU for your concern and thoughtfulness. Especially those who took the time to leave comments here or call me on the phone. This is the second cyclone Mrs GOF and I have weathered with the support of my WordPress friends. Apart from a little flood and wind damage to shade houses we have come through Cyclone Ita unscathed.

Last night Mrs GOF and I enjoyed a 34th wedding anniversary dinner to the accompaniment of rain pounding on the tin roof, (giving thanks that it was still attached to the walls) the whistle of wind gusting through the rafters and the roar of the West Mulgrave waterfall four kilometres away as it disgorged the 12 inches of rain which fell in it’s catchment during the day .

Now….I’d like to get some more thankfulness and thoughts about cyclones off my chest before this blog deteriorates into it’s normal programming.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is often the subject of much ridicule, but it’s record of cyclone track prediction during the last decade has been impeccable. The complex movement of Cyclone Ita was predicted with astonishing accuracy two days in advance of landfall. These days only fools ignore the cyclone warnings and predictions.

In today’s world of television, mobile phones, Facebook and Twitter it is worth remembering that 100 years ago advice about imminent cyclones consisted of ships ‘accidentally’ discovering the storms in the Coral Sea then relaying messages to the Cairns Telegraph Office. The Post Office would then raise a red flag on the roof. Whenever the residents of Cairns felt an abnormally strong wind they would travel into the Post Office to check if there was a red flag flying.

Another thankfulness; Cairns has the WORLD’S MOST WONDERFUL radio station. ABC Far North. During every cyclone the local announcers sacrifice their own sleep and comfort to provide 24-hour talkback radio including regular weather updates, connections to emergency services, companionship for the lonely and words of comfort for the isolated, frightened and distressed.

No matter how many cyclones you survive they always remain terrifying reminders of the fragility of life and the vulnerability of the structures which we build.

Most people never get to experience the other-worldliness of being in the ‘eye’ of a cyclone. In a strange way I feel privileged to have done so on two occasions during cyclones Winifred and Larry. There is absolute stillness and silence while looking up at a clear sky for ten or fifteen minutes before all hell breaks loose again unleashing several more hours of destruction.

Mother Nature is toying with us. She will be the ultimate winner on this planet.



P.S.  It will take me a couple of days to undo all the pre-cyclone preparations which we made, so please cut me a little blogging slack….I will catch up with you all again soon.  Thank you my friends.


Cyclone Ita

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Posted GMT 2100 April 10. 7am local time Friday April 11.


The numbers and predictions for severe tropical Cyclone Ita are quite frightening.

Central wind gusts; 300km per hour
Gales extending 200km from the centre.

Predicted landfall 6 pm today local time near Cooktown, Far North Queensland, before being captured by an upper level trough directing it southwards to the Atherton Tablelands where it will arrive during early morning darkness tomorrow with embedded thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Bugger! Would someone like to send me some pestilence as well?

Rainfall predictions; Up to 12 inches of rain every 6 hours for the next 2 days.

There is still an element of uncertainty with this cyclone track.  An earlier-than-predicted capture by the trough will see it impact directly on Port Douglas, Cairns and those areas destroyed by Cyclone Yasi three years ago. Regardless of track variation this storm will leave a swathe of destruction hundreds of kilometres wide.

Special thoughts at the moment to Brad  who is directly in the line of fire. We hope he finds safe refuge.

I expect to lose my tenuous internet connection shortly. We will not be evacuating this time.  Inga will post updates on her blog (here) after the event has passed.  It may be a while before I am back here.


“Cyclone season, when the outcome can never be known”
(song lyrics from ‘Cyclone season’ by Graeme Connors)

This may take awhile

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The Monsoon Trough is going through an active phase to the near North, leaving GOF’s place directly beneath the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

For those not meteorologically inclined, it is bloody wet and cloudy in these mountains at the moment.

No sun = no solar power = no computer = no blogging.  😦

The Fujiwara Effect

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                                                          (also known as the Fujiwhara effect.)

In January 2010 there were two tropical cyclones in the Coral Sea at the same time.
Neville, close to our coast, and Olga rapidly approaching Neville from the East.   Two systems perfectly suited to begin the phenomenon known as the Fujiwara effect.

Dr Sakuhei Fujiwhara was a Japanese meteorologist in 1921 who, for reasons known only to himself, was farnarkling  around with laboratory experiments on vortexes and whirlpools in water. 
Maybe a childhood fascination with water disappearing down plug holes had opened his door to this scientific pathway.
Be that as it may or may not, he discovered unexpected interactions occurring when one vortex came under the influence of another, and it led him to postulate that similar effects would occur in the Earth's atmosphere, which behaves in a similar manner to the liquids he was experimenting with.

Only after weather satellites were launched in the 1960's could scientific proof be obtained, and observations made, to confirm his theories.

When two similar strength cyclones approach each other they will tend to cylindrically rotate around each other about a central pivot point determined by the relative strength of each system.

It is a relatively uncommon occurrence.  Perhaps twice a year in the Pacific ocean, and once every three years in the Atlantic.
(The difference explained simply because there are more cyclones each year in the Pacific.)

The two cyclones will rotate like a slowly turning horizontal dumbbell in a movement known as a Fujiwara dance or waltz.

The Fujiwara effect typically involves four stages.

1. Approach and capture; the orbits of the 2 storms begin to interact.
2. Mutual orbit;  begin Fujiwara dance.
3. Merger;  one storm if more intense will trap the smaller storm.
4. Escape; one storm may depart from the Fujiwara effect, or
    upper level atmospheric influences may cause the storms to
    split and resume independent courses.

Neville and Olga demonstrated this final scenario, making monkeys out of the forecasters attempting to predict tracks for the two systems.  Neville was fractured and flung more than 100km South, while Olga weakened into a rain depression on a westward track bringing drenching rain to us as well as a huge area of arid Northern and Central Australia.
Our rain gauge measured 548mm (22") in 4 days.

Isn't weather, nature and science absolutely fascinating and full of wonder?

Please forgive this burst of unrestrained meteorological enthusiasm.

P.S  "Farnarkle" is a little known Australian word meaning to "mess around with",
or more accurately "fart around with" something.

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