Fairfax Media Network

Weather News

Tasmania's 'rain man' honoured for 50 years of weather records 'off the cuff'

Edith Bevin, Thursday February 15, 2018 - 10:43 EDT
ABC image
Peter Jones looks at his rainfall gauge at his home in Orford, Tasmania, in February 2018. - ABC

You could say Peter Jones is Tasmanian's very own rain man, with a respected track record of recording precipitation in the state for more than 50 years.

And it's all been off the cuff — literally.

Over the years he has developed a unique way of recording those vital figures — he jots them down after each reading in pencil on his shirt cuff.

"As an aide memoire, I record that reading on my shirt cuff," he laughed.

"It washes out!

"What else have I got? If I put it on a piece of paper I forget about it and that goes through the wash and that's what upsets wives!"

He said his wife Valerie, who washes the scribbled upon shirts, had the patience of a saint.



"When I go upstairs [inside] I write that in my daily diary and at the end of the month I go through the diary, flick through the pages and record it on a form that the Bureau of Meteorology sends me and I add up the daily figures and get the monthly total," he said.

"I duplicate that for my own records and I send the original off to the Bureau of Meteorology. That's all there is to it!"

The bureau is recognising his work with a Rainfall Excellence Award for his outstanding contribution in recording 50 years of rainfall.

He began his recordings first in the lush green farm lands of Kellatier, near Wynyard in Tasmania's north-west.

And more recently at Spring Beach near Orford on the state's east coast, where he admits the gauge is rarely full.

"I come from the Wynyard area where it rains and rains and rains, and when it's not raining it rains some more," Mr Jones said.

"But in Spring Beach, it doesn't rain sometimes and it doesn't rain for weeks and perhaps even months."

Jones to continue so long as he can 'toddle' down the garden



Mr Jones' passion for the weather began when he was an 18-year-old boatswain's mate in the Royal Australian Navy, where part of his job was capturing four-hourly readings.

When he left the Navy and went farming, his then-father-in-law was an engineer with electricity provider Hydro Tasmania, and thought it would be a good idea if he got a rain gauge.

Mr Jones set himself up and registered with the bureau, in a role he said could be a "job for life".

"I'll keep doing it for as long as I can toddle down here [to the garden] and read the gauge," he said.

"I don't believe in retiring. There's an interest in it … and it gives a bit of purpose to life when you're at this stage of life!"

Rain gauges helping build bigger picture

Mr Jones said on its own his role in recording rainfall in his area was minor, but he loved that fact that he was part of a network which painted a picture of weather patterns and life in Tasmania and the mainland.

"I often think of what I do in relation to those dot paintings that [Aboriginal people] do in Central Australia," he said.

"Thousands of little dots … one little dot means absolutely nothing, but thousands of dots arranged in some sort of order with system makes a picture.



"Well it's the same for the rain gauge, because what happens here at south Orford has really no relevance to anything else.

"But put into a picture of what happens at Orford and Wielangta and Sorell, and various districts, it helps make a picture and it needs a lot of years to make the picture.

"That is why that [rain gauge is useful] and I'm proud to be a part of that … even though it's just one little dot."

The award recognises his service in recording rainfall in Kellatier for 34 years, and in Orford for more than 18 years.

Bureau of Meteorology acting state manager Simon McCulloch said the commitment to the community shown by Mr Jones was to be commended.

"Since February 1962, Mr Jones has recorded and reported daily rainfall observations for the Bureau, providing both a continuous and reliable record of over more than 50 years," Mr McCulloch
said.

"Australia is a vast continent, and while the bureau's network is extensive, there are many areas that are not covered except by the dedicated service of volunteers such as Mr Jones."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

More breaking news

Sydney Morning Herald
ABC News
National Nine News
News Limited

Display Your Local Weather

Weather News

Almost 40 brumby deaths blamed on drought and mismanagement

14:57 EDT

Australia has had a love affair with brumbies since the days of Banjo Patterson, but the modern reality for the animals is far from the romance evoked in The Man From Snowy River.

Farmers welcome new weather radar to be built in Victoria's Wimmera region

13:04 EDT

Farmers say a new radar in the north-west Victorian town of Rainbow will fill a gaping hole in the country's weather radar network.

Christmas tree growers offered hope after rain

12:55 EDT

The recent rain in regional New South Wales has raised the hopes of many farmers, greening up their land and facilitating new growth on stock.