Obituary: Augie Auer

By Phoebe Falconer

Augie Auer, meteorologist. Died aged 67.

Augie Auer was a weatherman with a mission. Not content with just bringing the plain facts of the weather to radio listeners and television viewers, he wanted to explain it.

A passing light shower became "a windscreen-wetter" and high and low pressure systems south of the country were "just a regular logjam of depressions and highs - it looks like a nose-to-tail collision on an Auckland motorway".

August H. Auer's passion for the weather began early in life. As a boy growing up in St Louis, Missouri, he would sit on the front porch of his home hoping for a storm. He did all the weather quizzes in his Boy Scout magazine, and watched out for Sputnik satellites with his mother.

But after a freak mid-winter tornado in St Louis, causing havoc and loss of life, Auer knew his vocation: to forecast weather and save lives.

He studied meteorology at Colorado State University before beginning a 20-year stint at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, as professor of atmospheric science, developing a feeling for snow.

"We lived in a mountain-top observatory 3355m up in the Rockies. You name it, we studied it."

In 1983 Auer visited New Zealand on a science programme. When he and his family got off the plane in Wellington, they found the place of their dreams: "Wind out of the south, crystal clear blue, a couple of cumulus clouds ... We all thought we'd died and gone to heaven."

The Auer family moved to Wellington in 1990, and he took a job with MetService. He worked first as skills development manager before being appointed chief meteorologist.

He oversaw the privatisation of the weather services in New Zealand. He did not believe that increased commercialisation of forecasts would lead to "cheap and cheerful" predictions.

Accused of overstating the dangers of Cyclone Fergus in 1996 and Cyclone Drena two weeks later, Auer defended his actions.

"I make no qualms whatsoever about being over the top. I think we have a duty to care and I think we met that duty."

In 1999 TV3 offered him a spot as week-night weather presenter, and he was delighted to accept. He stepped down in 2002.

In 2006 Auer was part of a group of climate scientists who formed the Climate Science Coalition. Their aim was to refute what they say are unfounded claims about global warming. Debate continues.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 30 Aug 2014 16:13:04 Processing Time: 1485ms