The Gibbs Medal

Award for long-term contribution to operational forecasting services

Description and history

WJ (Bill) Gibbs OBE, was Commonwealth Director of Meteorology from 1962 to 1978 and First Vice-president of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) from 1967 to 1975. His initiatives while Director transformed Australian operational meteorology.  As John Zillman has pointed out[1][2] “More than any other, he shaped the Bureau of Meteorology of the twentieth century”. He convinced governments of the day of the value of increasing resourcing of meteorology and during his time the staff of the Bureau doubled to just under 2000.  He played a key role in the Bureau acquiring powerful computers in the late 1960s, to introduce operational numerical weather prediction into forecasting.  Bill fought for the bilateral arrangement with Japan that has provided Australian access to the invaluable Japanese geostationary satellite data.  With Dr CHB Priestley, Gibbs championed the establishment of the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station. He developed the use of deciles as drought indicators, an approach still used in climate monitoring operations here and overseas.

Internationally, Bill played a key role in the establishing the World Weather Watch, and of modernising the WMO, including the early entry of China into the Organization. He chaired the WMO Executive Committee Panel of Experts on Climate Change in the mid-1970s and guided the early WMO debate that led to the establishment of the World Climate Programme. He was instrumental in establishing Melbourne as one of the three World Meteorological Centres.  Bill’s early experiences in meteorology were as an officer in the RAAF Meteorological Service, from 1940, where he provided daily weather briefings to Allied Headquarters for the tropics from southeast Asia to the dateline. During this period he founded and edited the Tropical Weather Research Bulletin, to encourage and publish research into tropical meteorology (and he was a frequent scientific contributor to the Bulletin). His interest in tropical weather meant that later, as Director, he worked continuously to upgrade the Australian tropical cyclone warning system. The Bulletin subsequently evolved into the Australian Meteorological Magazine and, now, into the Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Journal

Bill was a strong supporter of AMOS and of its predecessor, the Australian Branch of the Royal Meteorological Society.  His many achievements were honoured by the award of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968, and the prestigious IMO (International Meteorological Organization) Prize in 1982.  But even more so by the “respect and affection felt by those of the generation of Bureau officers whose own lives and careers benefited so greatly from the influence and legacy of his.”2

In recognition of the way WJ (Bill) Gibbs shaped and transformed operational meteorology in the Bureau of Meteorology in the 1960s and 1970s a new award for long-term contribution for operational forecasting services will be given by AMOS in recognition of long and distinguished service to operational forecasting over many years.  The award is aimed at those who have worked as operational forecasters in weather forecasting, oceanography or in any of the sciences represented by AMOS, and who have worked mostly in Australia.  This award, which will be given every two years, will not focus on research achievements, or the development of operational aids through investigative work which is recognised in the Christopher Taylor Award, but instead on outstanding and consistent service to operational forecasting over many years.   This covers service provision, communication, improvements to services through engagement with working groups, and/or excellent provision of forecasts with a demonstrable beneficial community impact during a number of major weather events.  The award recognises a very high standard of work in operational forecasting over many years along with promotion and engagement with new methods and tools as they are introduced into operational meteorology, oceanography or any of the sciences represented by AMOS.  The Award will comprise a medal but will not include a cash component.

Evidence of work undertaken while not on operational duty will be taken into consideration.   It is expected that the successful applicant will have worked for a significant part of their working life in operations in Australia.   This Award will sit alongside the Christopher Taylor Award, and these two awards will be given in alternate years, with the first Gibbs medal being given in 2014, and the next Christopher Taylor Award being given in 2015.  The award will comprise a medal.


2015 - John James, Bureau of Meteorology
2016 - Jeff Callaghan, Bureau of Meteorology

Nominations and eligibility

Anyone who is familiar with the work of the nominee may make a nomination.  The nomination must address the selection criteria below, include a CV, and no more than three letters of reference that also address the selection criteria.  Nominators should be aware of the AMOS Code of Conduct, which promotes diversity of membership and discipline when making nominations. The Awards Sub-Committee has limited ability to seek additional information and therefore nomination documents must be complete and provide a full and fair account of each candidate.


  1. Equal weight will be given to all of the Selection Criteria.
  2. This Award will be given every even year.
  3. See the main Awards page for other eligibility requirements.


 Selection criteria

  1. A long-term commitment to the provision of operational forecasting services in the sciences covered by AMOS to the community at a consistently high standard over many years.   Examples of this service are the provision and communication of forecasts and warnings for the public and emergency services.  (the selection committee would be looking for written evidence from peers and supervisors attesting to the high standard of operation work) essential
  2. Evidence of contributions to the development and evolution of service provision and communication which go beyond that which would be normally expected by working in a forecasting position.  Examples of this include improvements made to the forecasting process through working with developers, scientists and communicators, and/or improvements to a service or services achieved through working in consultation with user groups.  essential
  3. Evidence of outstanding services that have demonstrably mitigated the impact of severe weather during a number of major weather events such as tropical cyclones, bushfires or storms over the high seas.  Highly desirable
  4. Evidence of readiness to participate in the transformation or modernisation of operations through collaboration and promotion of new methods and tools that are introduced into operations. Essential
  5. A contribution to AMOS through working on committees, participating in the organisation of conferences etc.  Desirable

[1] Zillman, J., 2005. “A fascination with the atmosphere and its ways – The life of W.J. Gibbs”, Bull. Aust. Meteorol. & Ocean. Soc., 18, 34-8.

[2] Zillman, JW, 1999. Prologue to “A very special family: Memories of the Bureau of Meteorology 1946 to 1962” by WJ Gibbs. METARCH PAPERS No 13. Bureau of Meteorology.


Awards Committee Contact

Neville Nicholls
Chair, AMOS Awards Committee