British meteorologist noted for his contribution to meteorology in his adopted home of Australia. He was Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology between 1908 and 1931.
In March 1884 his family emigrated to Sydney, Australia. Hunt began working with the government astronomer Henry Chamberlain Russell at the Observatory, becoming a meteorological assistant in January 1886, and promoted to second meteorological assistant in 1890. In this role he was responsible for the daily weather report, and also worked with Russell’s project studying anti-cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1894 his work was recognised with the Ralph Abercrombie prize for “An Essay on Southerly Bursters”, and also the next year with “Types of Australian Weather”, a wide-ranging survey on meteorology in Australia. He was appointed head meteorologist in 1904, and immediately sent on a world tour to survey the most modern meteorological techniques.
In late 1906, Hunt, by now a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, was appointed inaugural head of the nascent Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau in Melbourne, the agency responsible for developing and unifying Australian meteorological services to satisfy the developing needs of industry. On 20–23 May 1907 Hunt convened a conference in Melbourne intended to standardise meteorological practices throughout Australia. As a result of his efforts, a unified national service was created, and began operating on 1 January 1908. As head meteorologist, his expert advice was also consulted on the climate of the proposed new seat of government at Yass-Canberra. Initially, Hunt’s main area of research was synoptic meteorology, but in 1913 he co-authored (with Griffith Taylor and E.T. Quayle) a textbook, The Climate and Weather of Australia, the first of its kind in Australia.
He developed a number of new meteorological theories, collected in a 1929 book A basis for seasonal forecasting in Australia. In this book he proposed a four-year weather cycle, according to which non-meteorological factors such as vegetation were causally linked to weather patterns. This theory led to new research into the relationship between the weather cycle and droughts. Before his forced retirement on 6 February 1931, Hunt was considered the foremost weather expert in Australia with an estimated 87% strike rate. One of his most highly regarded achievements was his successful battle, through the First World War and Great Depression, to obtain the resources to grow and professionalise Australia’s meteorological service to meet the demands of military and industry.
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