“Well, my friend, there’ll be a few windscreen wetters around Auckland today but otherwise some long fine periods for those who want to prune the roses.”
Just two of the “Augie-isms” that added colour to weather talk in New Zealand in recent years, but will no longer be heard following the death of Professor Augie Auer at a family gathering in Melbourne, Australia, last night.
Augie Auer’s deep mid-American accent turned public weather forecasting on its head when he moved to New Zealand in the mid 1980s joining Met Service as a mentor to many meteorologists and becoming Chief Meteorologist. Auer was a keen frontman for things metorological and was often consulted by radio and television following serious weather events during his time with Met Service.
He moved from that role ca 1998 to front the weather for TV3.
Latterly, he has been known as a key spokesman for the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, a group standing against the lemming-like tide who believe in man-made global warming. Vilified widely for his belief that the changes in weather are largely part of a natural cycle, Augie Auer provided a welcome counterpoint that encouraged healthy debate about the planet’s weather. He also believed that the Sun played a more active role in Earth’s weather than many believe.
It was timely that Wayne Mowat interviewed Professor Auer in the “Eight Months to Mars” segment of Radio New Zealand National’s weekday afternoon show a few weeks back. The regular Mars segment allows the guest to talk freely about their life and the sorts of things they would take on a long trip to Mars to keep themselves entertained.
Auer took the oportunity to remind us of the tremendous change that has occurred in weather analysis and forecasting during the last 30 years. Vastly more powerful computing hardware and software has allowed the development of sophisticated weather modelling tools to aid forecasting. And, while short-term forecasting has improved its accuracy during the past decade, it still uses historical data that only covers the last 30 to 300 years (depending on where the observations were made) to project trends.
In the true spirit of healthy science debate, Augie Auer rowed against the tide to query popular belief. Too often in New Zealand science, dissent is treason. We need more scientists with Auer’s independent thought and courage for, whether they’re right or wrong, their adoption of unpopular stances causes us to constantly review, refine and improve our science.