Committee for Lorne: Making Sense of the Weather

February 1, 2024 BY

One simple question dominates every aspect of our lives and influences all our daily decisions – from what to wear to where to go and what to do: “… what will the weather be like today – or tomorrow?”

With this and a dollop of fairness front of mind, I think we should try to be a little more sympathetic towards those who beaver away at the thankless Bureau of Meteorology [the BoM].  These modern-day climatic Nostradami work in an ‘on-a-hiding-to-nothing’ scientific space that must be one of the hardest tasks imaginable — how to predict the weather! 

While fair criticism can be levelled at the BoM from time to time, we should try better to cut it some slack when it comes to short-term forecasting.  It’s not easy, and I believe they do an excellent job, though sometimes they do [and will continue to] get it wrong.  It is an unhappy characteristic of human nature to pick out one wrong from a thousand rights and then magnify it as ‘representative’ of all performance.  It was once said that there are only two certainties in life — death and taxes — but there is a third … the inevitable BoM criticism that follows a miscall on the weather.  Get it wrong, and there is nowhere to hide. 

One such ‘impossibility’ is the accurate calling of a supercell — that ravage of the lower atmosphere that seems to come from nowhere … and fast!  And, just to get it straight, by supercells, I do not mean the range of health products of the same name: like “the liquid oxygen pills that [are claimed to] ‘tap into’ your natural energy cycles, or the oxygen skin repair foundation that ‘repairs’ your tired skin”… no … I mean weather supercells that can demolish your house, or even kill.

Supercells are less seen here in southern Victoria than in coastal Queensland, where they are quite common.  As a recent spate of horrific weather, floods, supercells, and other natural nastiness has beset the eastern seaboard from Cape York to Cape Otway, it behoves us to understand better what a supercell event is, and how problematic it can be to predict [and warn] about them. 

To paraphrase Dr Tim Rapauch [UNSW Sydney Climate Change Research Centre] in his description of thunderstorms: “… a thunderstorm occurs when in conditions of high humidity, warm, moist air rises to form a dense cloud that condenses into heavy rain — and sometimes hail. 

If the rain and hail fall straight back down, the cool downdraft created by the falling rain dampens and cools the warm updraft and stops the storm.  But if there is a sudden wind shear — a rapid change in wind speed or direction — the storm tilts, and the cooling downdrafts of rain are moved laterally away from the warm updraft.  This builds the storm further, and it can grow rapidly stronger”.  

Describing the supercell storm as the most dangerous type of severe thunderstorm, Rapauch continues: “… its rotating updraft with separate downdrafts imparts an ability to keep building in strength … and this is what makes it so dangerous.  Supercell storms can generate heavy rain, giant hailstones, lightning, and extreme wind gusts, which make these storms damaging to crops, property and the built environment … and dangerous for people”.

But, while our weathermen can accurately predict that supercell-forming conditions are likely at any given time, the final recipe — the proof of the weather pudding — depends on the right mix and timing of the conditions … and things can change very quickly.  Thus, while all the ingredients for a supercell can be reasonably accurately foretold, predicting exactly when [or whether] they will fuse into the mayhem of a superstorm or fizzle into ‘just another thunderstorm’ is a more difficult task. 

Even when a supercell has formed, there is still the problem of alerting the public that one ‘is upon us’.  Many may say that we are now over-alerted and over-warned … and I think this is true.  My emergency app regularly seems to over-dramatise its weather warnings — something that of itself imparts risk, lest we fall prey to the ‘boy who cried wolf’ syndrome.  Of course, they are just trying to cover all bases, but when a true emergency arises, will we be listening or act?  

In addition, the reputation of our long-trusted public broadcaster — our ABC — has suffered badly from a perceived drift into woke-ism and, for many, has slipped off the daily radio diet.  Fewer and fewer are listening to their alert systems.  Perhaps a federally funded, auto-break-in emergency system might do the trick better, as the ABC certainly no longer seems a good fit for that purpose — whether it be for storm warnings, bushfire information, or any other warning infrastructure. 

In my view, the BoM does a first-rate job — given the vagaries of the weather — despite that it seems to have miscalled the timing of the La Nina/El Nino cyclical reversal.  Although ocean temperatures initially seemed on track for an El Nino period, they stuttered and then began switching back. 

But cut them some slack.  Australian weather engines are incredibly complex.  Not only are there two seminal ocean-driven systems — the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific to our east and the Indian Ocean Dipole to our west, neither of which runs reliably in sync [with itself or with the opposing pattern on the other side of the continent] — but there is also the Antarctic circumpolar wave to our south, the seasonal equatorial monsoons to our north, and a tumultuous atmosphere swirling around above! 

It might be fairer to ask of the BoM: ‘… how do you manage to get the weather so right, so regularly, and so often?‘ and not criticise it and grumble, ‘… why did you get it wrong, just this once?’

That said, errors like their yes/no/maybe El Nino call [if it can reasonably be called an error, for we live on an unpredictable planet where stuff all-too-rarely goes quite according to plan] are often more problematic.  They do matter — and matter significantly to the national economy.  

Primary producers have, in the main, come to trust the BoM — and why wouldn’t they, as 98 times out of 100, they get it right.  But planting, spraying, cropping, baling, up or down stocking, expected income vs. expenditure, everything on the land is weather dependent.  In turn, the decisions farmers make affect food production … the wholesale price at the farm gate … the retail market price to the consumer [though there are ‘middle-man gouging’ complaints from farmers and consumers that are yet to be sorted by the government] … the cost of living … and the national GDP.  All depend on the weather and the longer-term predictions made by the BoM.

So, although we should be grateful to our BoM for being so often right, we should also realise that they will err occasionally.  For one, I still like to check the sky behind Allenvale, scan the sea past Point Grey, and tap the barometer in the hallway … just in case.

John Agar

Feature Writer


Hooded Plover Update

The people of Lorne and her visitors have taken the threatened Hooded Plover chicks to heart.   An extraordinary number of people have come forward to help protect them.  The section of beach from near the river mouth to the groyne remains temporarily closed to all people and dogs to allow the chicks to feed on the water line without being disturbed.  At times it has felt like a zoo as so many people have been keen to come and see them.  This is why the beach closure is so important – the parents and chicks can go into high stress and stop feeding when people are constantly looking, lingering or passing.  Most of the volunteers will have binoculars they are happy to lend to enable people to get a closer look from an appropriate distance.  

Watchers have been delighted to see some wing stretches and tiny flaps as the chicks approach four weeks on Monday 5th February.  The final week before they fledge is always exciting as they start to take very short flights.  So not long to go – as long as we continue to protect them.  It takes only one incident for their short lives to be over. But the support they are receiving from Lorne day and night is giving them the best possible chance.


A word from the Chairman

“Have yours gone ?”.  “Have you got your house back?”.  “Kids still here?”.  That was all the chatter at the supermarket and among the Mermaids this week as we all said farewell to our beloved children and our delightful, talented, excitable, hungry and noisy grandchildren after their summer sojourn.  As they get back into their school and work routines, we reorder our lives and our houses and settle down to enjoy what promises to be a beautiful February.  The current forecast for Lorne for February is for warm, dry days with only 3 days of rain.  In contrast Sydney is expecting 20 days of rain.  Where would you rather be?

This summer was a different one for Lorne.  We thankfully didn’t see the anticipated bushfires and, while it is not too late, hopefully there is enough moisture in the ground to minimize the risk.  There were many complaints from visitors about the weather, but as we know there is always plenty to do in Lorne.

Cost of living pressures certainly seem to have affected business in Lorne, as everywhere, with rentals reporting less than full occupancy, business turnover down and many more houses for sale.  The governments’ combined strategies on interest rates and taxes are certainly having an impact on people’s spending patterns, but interestingly the Op Shop has had one of its busiest summer seasons.

As we know Lorne comes alive in summer and as I look back on the last month, I am amazed at what our town has packed in since we sat down to our turkey and Christmas pudding. 

We were quickly awakened by the energy of 500 Nippers pounding the beach and smashing the waves, together with the blue and white tent city as Hawthorn and Newtown came together on the beach.

On New Year’s Eve we had the fabulous spectacle of the two Community Funded Fireworks displays to welcome in the New Year.

Next it was on to the Pier to Pub weekend with a triathlon of running on Friday, swimming on Saturday and celebrating for the rest of the weekend.  I can’t help thinking that many of our young visitors skipped the first two legs!  

The Lorne Country Club put on its “Party on the Lorne” which drew a crowd of over 400, and its Summer Classic Golf and Tennis Competition.  The competition was not so fierce in the golf but in the tennis our former Federal Treasurer showed he still has a few deft moves in a straight sets win in the singles final. 

On Australia Day the Aquatic Club hosted a fundraising barbecue for the local CFA which, with the help of a great raffle, raised in excess of $4,000 for this worthy cause.  The CFA has expressed its thanks for the generosity of the Club and its members.  Interestingly, about 200 members emerged from the ocean having spontaneously decided to swim there.  This was definitely not the outlawed Pub to Pier swim! 

Enjoy the serenity.


John Higgins – Chairman


Lorne Ward Events Calendar –


  • 18 Deans Marsh Market

local food growers, producers and crafts people at Deans Marsh Reserve 10am-2pm

  • 24 Castle & Candle Competition, 6-9pm at St George River



  • 10 Lorne Aquatic & Angling Club – Major Fishing Competition No 2

Weigh cut off 12.30pm. Free roast lunch for competitors, $10 non-fishing members.

  • 17 Deans Marsh Festival

Live music, local harvest, market stalls, dog jumping, kids events and much more. 10 am – 6pm at Deans Marsh Reserve.

  • 28-13/4 Photographic Exhibition

at Lorne Community Connect. 1st prize $1,000, 2nd prize $500 submissions close 19 January 2024

  • 30 Lorne Market

9-4pm https://www.lornemarkets.com/

  • 31 Lorne Aquatic & Angling Club – Major Fishing Competition No 3

Weigh cut off 12.30pm. Free roast lunch for competitors, $10 non-fishing members.

Surf Coast Times – Free local news in your inbox

Breaking news, community, lifestyle, real estate, and sport.