THE CLIMATE KELPIE BLOG: Obituary – Barry James White

Posted by BCG on 22nd March 2019

Barry James White (21 Sept.1942 – 26 Dec.2018)

In December 2018, Queensland and Australia lost one of their most talented agricultural professionals, and a leader in the science of climate change/variability (agroclimatologist).

Initially working as a cadet in the soil conservation service of the Queensland Dept. of Agriculture and Stock, Barry initially became interested in weather and climate when he participated in a cloud seeding trial conducted by CSIRO in several regions of Eastern Australia.

Barry completed an Economics degree at UQ as an external student in 1964 and a Phd, A Simulation Based Evaluation of Queensland’s Northern Sheep Industry, at James Cook University in 1978.

It was during the 1980’s that Barry increasingly focused on climate variability as he saw it represented the greatest challenge facing primary producers and considered that the provision of improved and more precise climate information was critical for both economic performance and resource management.

After many years working at a senior level with the Department, in 1994 Barry decided to pursue a career as a consultant. He worked for many organisations including GRDC and Land and Water Australia where he was appointed as their National Coordinator for climate variability.

One of the many projects in which Barry played a lead role was the development of the SILO database combining the Bureau of Meterology‘s datasets with the delivery capability of the Drought Group in QDPI. Another major project for which Barry arranged funding was the development of the AussieGRASS model which simulated the impact of climate variability on pasture growth.

An indication of his professional reputation as an agroclimatologist can be gained from his plenary paper in 2000 in an international publication Applications of Seasonal Climate Forecasting in Agriculture and Natural Ecosystems – the Australian Experience. In 2004 he was invited by the United States Academy of Sciences to participate in a workshop on seasonal climate forecasting.

For decades Barry relentlessly pursued the need to provide primary producers with more sophisticated climate indicators to enhance their ability to deal with this variability. He was instrumental in redefining the quality of climate information provided to the rural sector and to the many other users of such data.

Outside of his professional life, Barry had a great love of rugby and played first class rugby for Brothers club in Brisbane as well as playing for Queensland on several occasions. Barry’s many friends and colleagues always found him to be engaging, entertaining and challenging.

Barry is survived by his wife Robyn and sons Andrew and Peter.

By Ian Robinson & Greg McKeon.