Feature Friday: Letter to a weather station

What does good science writing look like? Most people will say that it’s clear, concise and accessible. It tells a story and makes the reader think, feel, or better yet, act.

Another way to measure good science writings is if it appears in The Best Australian Science Writing anthology. This is an annual collection of the year’s best science writing from Australia, and ranges across all topics of science and in forms from poetry to essays.


The description of the 2019 edition defines good science writing well:

“Good science writing makes us feel. It makes us delight in the discovery of a black hole munching on a star, laugh at the image of aliens puzzling over golf balls on the Moon, wonder at the mystery of the Spanish influenza’s deadly rampage, grieve for baby shearwater chicks dying with plastic-filled stomachs, rage at the loss of the Great Barrier Reef and cheer for the clitoris’ long-overdue scientific debut.”

But why am I quoting the 2019 edition? Well because it features the awesome work of our very own Dr. Linden Ashcroft, with her piece “Letter to a weather station”. In this essay, Linden addresses the amazing work the weather station does, and thanks it for its faithful service at recording Melbourne’s weather.

Here’s a little excerpt:

“Dear white box outside AAMI Park Stadium,

I have to admit, I don’t see you often. Occasionally I walk past, on my way to the tennis or a concert, and throw a sly glance your way. Sometimes I try to spy you when driving along Batman Avenue. But while I don’t see you regularly, I spend a lot of time seeing what you observe. I think most Melbournians do. And I’m a big fan.

For without you, what would we really have to talk about? Without your patient recordings, how would we know precisely how bloody hot it was, or when the change went through? We would be lost.

You may look simple from the outside, but I know that yours is a design that has lasted for over 150 years. Painted white to reflect sunlight, your louvred sides and solid roof allow air to flow through you so your inhabitants can capture the temperature of the air while being protected from the rain.

Your door opens to the south so direct sunlight does not hit the precious thermometers inside. You stand proud at 1.2 m above the ground so the temperature of the air can be recorded, not the temperature of the ground, which I know from early morning dog walks can be much cooler. “

– words by Linden Ashcroft


The Bureau of Meteorology’s Olympic Park weather station (station number 086338). Image: Bureau of Meteorology

For the rest of the article and some more amazing science writing, look for The Best Australian Science Writing 2019 in your bookshop or library, or if you’re a Triple R Radio subscriber, check the April 2019 issue of Trip Magazine.

– Written by Rosie Arnold