Australia's Bureau of Meteorology plans to use Aborigine weather knowledge to help understand their climate. Aborigines in different parts of Australia count as little as two or as many as six seasons. They take note of when the bearded dragon lizard sits upright and points its head to the sky, meaning it will rain the next day, or when a flock of currawongs flies overhead, which means it will rain in 4 hours. If the queen wattle blooms heavily, bull ants abandon their tree nests for mounds of dirt, or meat ants cover nests with tiny quartz stones (which reflect heat), then bushfires are coming. Weather bureau forecaster John O'Brien says,"Our concepts of meteorological science have a time span of several hundred years, whereas Aboriginal culture based on weather, flora, fauna and climate is tens of thousands of years old."
Frances Bodkin, a descendant of the D'harawal Aborigines, says their weather patterns indicated by plants, animals and the stars and are as accurate as modern-day forecasts."Present-day scientists do their studies by measurements and experiments. Aboriginal people are just as good scientists, but they use observation and experience," he says.
The bushfires which burned through Sydney in the last two years were predicted by Aborigines because they saw Sydney's queen wattle trees blooming heavily, which is a sign bushfires are coming. Bodkin says, "When it has a very heavy bloom the D'harawal people knew they had 18 months to burn off before massive fires went through. That gave them two really good seasons to burn off before the fires appeared." Aborigines warn that the queen wattle has a large number of buds again this year, meaning there will be brushfires again next summer.
In 1788, when English settlers first arrived in Sydney, they lived according to the four European seasons, without any real knowledge of local weather patterns. The local Aborigines had a six-season calendar. For longer-range weather forecasting, they used an 11-12 year cycle, as well as a 8,000-10,000-year cycle.
The six season Aboriginal calendar is based on the flowering of native plants. Murrai'yunggoray, when the red waratah flower blooms, is the first season, from September to October. It's the time when temperatures rise. Goraymurrai, when the two-veined hickory wattle flowers, takes place around November to December, and has warm, wet weather. Gadalung marool, when the single-veined hickory wattle flowers, has hot and dry weather and lasts from January to February. Banamurrai'yung, when the lillipilli tree produces tiny sour berries, is around March to May and is a time of wet, cooler temperatures. Tugarah'tuli, when the forest red gum flowers around June to July, is a cold season. Tugarah'gunyamarra, when the gossamer wattle flowers around August, is the end of the annual calendar and is a cold and windy season.
El Nino has been blamed for Australia's worst drought in 100 years, which led to brushfires that threatened the city of Sydney. But according to the D'harawal Aborigines, it's not El Nino, but the rare meteorological convergence of three ancient climate cycles: the hot and dry Gadalung marool, the hot season of the 11-year Djurali cycle and the 8,000-10,000 Talara'gandi, which brings ice and fire.
The 11-year cycle started in 2001 with the appearance of the Aurora Australis, the pale green and pink lights in the upper atmosphere above the South Pole, caused by the interaction of electrons and protons from outside the atmosphere. The Talara'gandi has caused ice ages and desertification in the past. It started when the sea began rising. Aborigines remember when the ocean was a three-day walk east of Sydney's coastline.
"We are in a period of absolute extremes, where we should be getting very cold, dry winters and very hot, dry summers," says Bodkin. "If you superimpose the 10,000-year cycle on top, I think it may last for 2,000 years." Interestingly enough, these types of weather extremes are exactly what global warming predicts.
You don't have to be an Aborigine weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
To check the Aborigine weather site,click here.
NOTE: This news story, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.