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1 February, 2013

The late great Inigo Jones -- Australian long-range weather forecaster

"EVERYONE talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," Mark Twain is quoted as saying. And nobody talked more about it than Queensland's long-range forecaster Inigo Jones, although he didn't pretend he could do anything about it. Jones was a Queensland institution from the day he issued his first forecast in 1923 until his death in 1954. Nobody divided opinion more than Jones, with many regarding him as a prophet and others dismissing him as a gifted amateur.

Jones, who came to Australia as an infant in 1874, became interested in the weather as a child and was recruited as an assistant to the state government meteorologist Clement Wragge in 1888. In 1893, his family bought a farm at Crohamhurst in the Glass House Mountains, where he worked and began keeping weather records. On February 2, 1893, he measured an Australian record rainfall of 958mm for the day at Crohamhurst, which might explain his interest over the next six decades. From Wragge he had picked up an interest in new-fangled theories of climatic cycles and in long-range forecasting based on sunspot activity. For 30 years, he plugged along in relative obscurity but in 1923 he correctly predicted the end of a dry spell, winning the publicity that turned him into a full-time forecaster, working from a house in Dutton Park. Decades before weather girls became household names, he became a celebrity as a writer and lecturer. Although his theories were never accepted by the scientific community, the Queensland Government appointed him director of the Bureau of Seasonal Forecasting and, with backing from government and private money, the Jingo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust was formed.

In 1935, his observatory at Crohamhurst was opened and Jones was rarely out of the public spotlight. He wrote forecasts for farmers and newspapers and even had spots on ABC radio.

Farmers swore by him but the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteor-ology twice rejected his methods. It concluded that his long-range fore-casts had only a 50-50 chance of being correct.

In 1930, for instance, the Commonwealth Meteorologist wrote that Jones "has placed upon successive Ministers and MPs the indignity of examining personal claims which are worthless. "Long years of familiarity with Mr Jones's writings have failed to disclose any scientific attack on the problems he essays to solve nor do analyses of his forecasts show any notable measure of success". But his supporters were just as vociferous. In 1939, The Land newspaper railed against the "harsh and ill-mannered treatment of Jones and warned of "scientists who believe that because a system is new, or not universally accepted, it lacks merit or is not even worthy of investigation".

Even today you can get into an argument over Jones, but the Australian Dictionary of Biography reports: "His faith in sunspot activity as a predictive tool was well-founded, but his evidence was largely anecdotal and he did not prove his hypothesis."

In 1939, one F.B. Starky, of Bendee Downs, Cunnamulla, wrote: "I have followed Mr Inigo Jones's seasonal forecasts for over four years and in that period I do not think Mr Jones has been wrong six times. "I do not think Mr Jones wishes to pose as a prophet."

Whatever his wishes, when Jones died on November 14, 1954, the report was headlined: Weather prophet dies, 81.

The Courier-Mail recorded that the previous year when the state was in the grip of a winter drought, Jones issued a forecast on June 17: "Good rain at the end of August." The first, second and third weeks of August were bone dry but Jones was unperturbed_ In the middle of the fourth week he issued a reassuring statement: "it will rain." On August 28, the rain thundered down and Jones didn't even bother looking surprised.

His admirers remember such successes and his detractors his failures, something that would be familiar to modem forecasters. Whether their success rate is better than 50-50 would be as debatable as the methods of the controversial Inigo Jones.

Story above from the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of Jan. 27, 2013



The story continues: Unofficial forecaster got recent Australian long-range forecast pretty right

Hayden Walker is the succesor to Lennox Walker who was in turn successor to the famous Inigo Jones, who was condemned as "unscientific" for his emphasis on solar activity as an influence on weather. He made good long-range forecasts, however. Farmers planned their planting and harvesting by him. They did not expect him to get the exact day right but getting the week or even the month right was still very valuable to them.

In the light of the week of sub-cyclonic weather that North Queensland has just had -- and which reached into Southern Queensland for a few days -- Walker would seem to have got close to reality. The forecasts below were reported on Nov. 20, 2012 and seem pretty right as of 30 January, 2013.

In the rest of the article excerpted below, none of the official forecasters even tried to make long-range predictions


Brace for summer of wild weather, says forecaster

Fourth generation long-range weather forecaster Hayden Walker said the Coast would experience more storm and rain activity for the rest of November, before the weather tapered off in December and January.

"For the start of 2013, the forecast is for good to heavy rain in January," Mr Walker said. "It won't be as substantial as some years.

"We've seen in the last two to three years an increase in sunspot and solar activity - it intensifies the heavy rain and flooding."

Mr Walker said while the weekend's storm activity had broken the heat, the rest of spring and summer would be "humid and uncomfortable".

Despite cyclones being predicted for south-east Queensland this summer, Mr Walker believed cyclonic activity would be confined to northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Source



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