Sunday, May 26, 2013

STRIDERS ALMANAC - The Express Edition Vol.1 Part 8

STRIDERS ALMANAC The Express Edition
Volume 1, part 8. 11-28 February 2013 (a period of 18 days),
The Sun passes over and the amazing dryness continues.
Monday 11 February 2013.
There was quite heavy rain at Lakewood in the late afternoon but I only found 1.5 mm of rain in the gauge when I returned to Solar Village. There were cooling downdrafts with the rain and an hour after dark the temperature in the room at Starshine was 26 degrees C.
Just one frog called briefly at sunset time, and a possum was walking on the roof at 2125 hrs. With these exceptions noted, it was a very quiet night.
Tuesday 12 February 2013.
The silence of the night was broken at 0330 hrs as guttation from the overhanging trees began to fall on the roof. It was quite light (or slow) guttation but it surprised me. It seemed like a very strong response from the trees to a trivial amount of rain (5.5 and 1.5 mm) on the previous two days.
At 0508 hrs it was overcast with far distant lightning to the S.E. reflected on the sky very occasionally. At 0545 hrs there was a steady N.W. air flow up the valley. At 0610 I heard thunder from the storm to the S.E.. The storm seemed to be coming in our direction. The dawn chorus of the birds began at 0617 far away to the N.W.. Two Green Tree Frogs called at 0621.
At 0622 I could see red lightning from the storm to the S.E.. It became evident that it was a very fast moving Red Dragon Storm. At 0631 hours I saw a long line of blue cloud just above the E. horizon under an otherwise pink sky. At 0726 and again at 0745 there were showers of guttation shaken down by the first winds for the day. A steady very light E. breeze began to blow after the shower at 0745 and it became overcast. At 0757 the E. breeze strengthened and there was another guttation shower on the roof. Point drizzle (Scotch mist) began to fall after that guttation shower.
At 0807 I heard closer thunder and the rain became heavy enough for me to hear it on the roof. It was fairly dim and the sky away to the S.W. was quite dark. At 0816 real rain began to fall. It was steady light rain. It arrived from the south. Thunder sounded to the S.W. and it grew darker. At 0840 the rain became much heavier, the thunder sounded much closer and it felt quite cold to me. By 0855 the thunder was closer still but the rain was ending. It really was very dim for that time of the day and the temperature was down to 23.5 degrees C on the veranda. At 0910 hrs the rain seemed to be over and the Babblers were calling.
The sky became lighter to the E. but thunder continued to the north. It remained very dim until 1010 hrs. All told 15 mm of rain fell at Jimol to 1015 hrs, including the 1.5 mm that fell on the previous afternoon. At 1027 the temperature on the veranda was 23 degrees C, the thunder had ended, the traffic noise was very loud and it was coming from the north. It remained dim.
I subsequently learned that the Red Dragon Storm missed us here but it dumped 99 mm of rain at Darwin Airport, with most of it falling within a one hour period.
It was a dim and overcast day although the sky grew brighter and brighter after about 1100 hrs. The air temperature reached 28.5 degrees C in the late afternoon.
Wednesday 13 February 2013.
The temperature in the room at Starshine was 24.5 degrees C at 0530 hrs. A S.E. breeze began to blow at 0550. One Green Tree Frog called “croak” a few times and then stopped at 0607. The dawn chorus of the birds began at 0619.
I had thought that the Friar Birds were coming here for the flowering paperbarks ( Melaleuca viridiflora ) along the creek, but as it got light enough to see, I saw that they were all over the flowering Xanthostemon trees ( Xanthostemon paradoxus ). It seemed as if they had camped in the flowering Xanthostemon trees overnight.
The synoptic chart showed a Low at 1006 hPa) near Willeroo, and the satellite photo showed a circular area of cloud associated with it but centred north of it and west of Katherine. We were under that cloud, as we had been on the previous day I suppose.
At 0842 the S.E. wind arrived (or the breeze strengthened). The wind got out of bed. The morning overcast cleared away to give us a sunny day with isolated late afternoon thunderstorms.
I visited Ian Morris at Riyala in the afternoon. As we were walking around in the bush there we saw a Tawny Coster Butterfly ( Acraea terpsicore ). It was the first sighting of that species at that place. This butterfly is a recent arrival in Australia. Its natural home is India and Sri Lanka.
One result of yesterdays rain was a lot of work for some of the ants. Piles of newly excavated dirt as rings around the entrance to their underground homes made them easy to see, and easy to find.
Thursday 14 February 2013.
On this day the sub-solar point passed over Solar Village on its way north and so out to sea. I observed the Sun at noon at home at Starshine.
The temperature in the room was 25 degrees C at 0700 hrs and the traffic noise at that time was from the W. Or the N.W.. At 0804 hrs a Buk Buk ( a Coucal Pheasant) called. This was the first call from that species for a long time.
Soon after noon I was chased indoors by a very brief and very light shower of rain from the north. After that there was a cloud shadow with thunder and then a rainbow cloud at 1457 hrs. At 1530 there was thunder to the E. and another very small fall of rain. It was hot. Very hot in the sun.
Friday 15 February 2013.
There was a thunderstorm in the night. It came from the S.E. I think. It began to rain at Starshine at about 0300 hrs, and it drizzled on until about 0815 hrs when it was overcast and dim under a gray sky. There was 18.5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs.
I travelled to Darwin to witness the transit of the sub-solar point there under the big banyan tree near the Water Gardens. There were nine of us all told gathered for that purpose. It was overcast for most of the time but the sun did shine at the critical moment and we got some nice photographs.
There were cooling downdrafts and a little rain from a thunderstorm in Darwin that night.
Saturday 16 February 2013.
After a long period in which I could leave food unprotected on the veranda at Starshine normality returned overnight 15-16 February. Some dried peaches were eaten and some biscuits were moved about. There was no rain on this day.
Sunday 17 February 2013.
I heard two animals on the roof at 0300 hrs. I think that they were probably Black Footed Tree Rats.
It was a cloudy day with overcast periods in the morning and sunny with clouds in the afternoon. There was a shower of rain in the mid-afternoon in Darwin.
I noticed that the Yazoo Stream on the flood plain (where the track from Starshine to White Gum crosses it) had dried up. Sure the soil was moist but there were no puddles of water and no water flowing or trickling along in this overflow channel. Most unusual for this time of year.
There was a flush of new leaf on some of the Ironwood Trees ( Erythrophleum chlorostachys ) along Dalgety Road on this day. I would normally expect to see this flush in March.
Monday 18 February 2013.
It was overcast calm and dim at 0800 hrs. I saw flower buds on the Fairy Grass ( Sporobolus australasica ) for the first time this season. At 1435 hrs there was thunder to the North, and a cooling downdraft from the North. At 1452 there was the briefest flurry of rain. A friend helped me plant out some more of the baby trees on this day. It was a sort of a desperation planting, the soil being as dry as it was.
Tuesday 19 February 2013.
I hand watered the trees that had been planted on the previous day. There was no rain at Solar Village but I could see a large area of rain to the South of us on Radar at night 19-20. The Canthium Trees ( Canthium lucidum ) were fruiting well along Horns Creek on this day.
Wednesday 20 February 2013.
Just before dawn (and earlier in the night too) I heard the Chop Chop Nightjars call for the first time in ages. There calls began the dawn chorus on this morning.
It became very cloudy in the early afternoon. I drove to Darwin. There was some rain there at 1700 hrs. Steady light rain began to fall at 2200 hrs and I drove home to Jimol. It rained all the way. It rained on all night. Steady rain.
Thursday 21 February 2013.
It was overcast and raining at 0900 when I read the rain gauge. There was 91 mm of rain in the gauge. Drizzle was still falling at 1200 hrs. It was dim and the air temperature in the room was 24.5 degrees C. By 1300 the rain had stopped and the traffic noise was from the N.N.E.. At 1416 hrs it began to rain again. Light rain continued until 1420.
One Green Tree Frog called at about 1500 hrs when a helicopter flew over. The frogs did not call during the rainy night 20-21 February whilst I was at home. Frogs and toads both called on the rainy night 21-22 February.
Friday 22 February 2013.
It rained many times and for many hours between 0900 0n the 21st and 0900 on the 22nd. Most of it must have been very light rain because it only added up to 14.5 mm for the 24 hour period. One Buk Buk called at 1200 hrs (the first call since the isolated one noted at 0804 on Thursday 14 February). I noticed that the Berrimah Weed ( Mitrocarpos hirtus ) began to flower at Jimol on this day. It was an overcast day with a few monsoon showers. There were monsoon showers at night too.
Saturday 23 February 2013.
It was overcast and there was 0.5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. At 1000 hrs I saw the first Tawny Coster Butterfly that I had seen at Solar Village, on the driveway to Starshine. It was a female. In the afternoon I walked the boundary firebreak around the southern half of Solar Village and saw two male Tawny Coster Butterflys on that walk. The mozzies were particularly bad on this and the previous few days.
Sunday 24 February 2013.
At 0711 a Buk Buk called, and at 0719 a Black Bittern called far away to the East.
At about 1700 hrs a thunderstorm went up nearby to the N. (from E. to W. In the sky). After that happened the sky to the S.E. was clear and a S.E. breeze was blowing. It seemed as if the trough (and its monsoon showers) might have gone out to sea.
Monday 25 February 2013.
I went to Darwin for the day and did not get home again until late.
There was some cloud and isolated afternoon thunderstorms but the strong S.E. wind aloft sheared their tops off. There was a late Hector storm over the Tiwi Islands. The shift to drier air and much less cloud was noticeable on this day.
Tuesday 26 February 2013. Full Moon.
The Full Moon occurred at 0557 hrs. I felt very cold (for 25 degrees C) in my room at 0330 hrs. It must have been much less humid. I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Black Bittern near the bridge at White Gum at about 0900 hrs. There was 2 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900.
I noticed several windfall Billy Goat Plum fruits ( Terminalia ferdinandiana ) on the track to the Cycad car park in the morning. The very first one to fall had fallen about 3 days previously. The fruits were not fully formed or ripe.
In the morning there were only a few small low cumulus clouds but the sky was very hazy. From late morning on there was more cumulus cloud. Isolated storms developed and there was thunder from about 1500 hrs. In the late afternoon there was quite a lot of cloud. At moonrise the sky was very cloudy. There was a brief shower of rain at about 2200 hrs.
I noticed the very first flowers for the season on the Annual Spear-grass ( Sorghum intrans ) on a few scattered individuals in the dense stand of the grass near the corner of Goode Road and Redcliffe Road, on this day.
Wednesday 27 February 2013.
There were several very brief and light showers of rain during the night. There was 1.5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs.
During the morning cloud began to blow over from the West and the sky became packed with medium sized cumulus clouds. There was a brief shower of rain at 1200 hrs. It became overcast and at 1354 there was a cooling downdraft. Overcast and sunny periods alternated and there were brief very light showers or rain and some periods of point drizzle. There was no chance of good moonlight at night. It was too cloudy.
The Weekly Tropical Note (issued on Tuesday 26 Feb.) said that ‘our rain’ is going to Severe Tropical Cyclone RUSTY off the Pilbara coast. It predicted that rain was likely to resume here from Friday 1 March onwards, and that the rain is not expected to last for more than about a week.
I noticed that the ferns to the S.W. of Starshine were turning brown on this day. This was not happening on other sites. These ferns might be good indicators of the moisture holding capacity of the soil in different places. The Queensland or ‘Black’ spear-grass ( Heteropogon contortus ) was turning red on the corner of Dalgety and Strangways Roads. I think that these colour changes were ‘signs of the times’.
It is an amazing fact but the dirt floor on the veranda here at Starshine remained dry and dusty ( apart from a few moist areas where I had tracked water in on my boots and moistened it in that way ). What sort of a Wet Season is it when dirt floors remain dry ? I have lived here since 1980 and it has never happened before. I am quite sure of that.
I had a visit from a Rainbow Pitta ( Pitta iris ) at 1240 hrs. I noticed that the Milkwood Tree ( Alstonia actinophylla ) just outside the front gate to the village had very sparse foliage on this day. Most of these trees seem to have a sparse period in the Wet Season these days. I do not remember this happening to them in my childhood. Something has changed I think.
Thursday 28 February 2013.
There were several showers of rain during the night and around dawn. There was 5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. The Babblers were calling a lot. At 1014 hrs it was overcast with a N.W. air flow and a lot of mozzies. I think that the mozzies had been delivered to us from the mangrove swamps on the estuary of the Elizabeth River by the N.W. airflow.
The Polynesian Arrow-root Plants ( Tacca leontopetaloides ) had been showing some yellow leaves for quite some time but on this day some of them were all yellow. It seems that so far as they are concerned the Wet Season is over.
Late in the day I walked along the Southern boundary of the Jimol block. I noticed a scatter of Bush Potato plants ( Eriosema chinense ) on the roadside. They were in flower. Not for the first time this season, but maybe for the last time this season. The yellow flowers are very noticeable and it is easy to overlook the plants when they are not in flower.
The Eriosema population near the Owl Gate was also in flower as was the population on the access track at Lakewood (Redgum Drive). This constituted a general and universal flowering of all of the individuals that I see on a regular basis. It could have been related to the recent Full Moon ( 26 Feb.) and it coincided with the opening of the first flowers on the Annual Spear-grass plants. At both the Solar Village and the Redgum drive sites the population is within the Woollybutt-Stringybark forest but close to its margin where it adjoins a swamp community that contains the Swamp Xanthostemon ( Xanthostemon paradoxus ) It is interesting to note that the Eriosema persists, and may even have increased in numbers, in these lands that have been protected from fire for quite a long time.
Another New Years Eve.
The last day of February is another ‘New Years Eve”. I think of the months of January and February as a season in its own right. And I also think of the month of March as a season in its own right. In most years the rain that falls before March does not have any obvious influence on the timing of the events of the drainage and drying process in the following Dry Season. In very dry years the rainfall prior to March does influence the timing of events in the following Dry Season. The present year has been especially dry.
I follow the international scientific convention and begin my study of the climate on the first day of March. It makes good local sense to use that starting date here and in this climate in my opinion.
Once upon a time I had many notebooks that recorded weather and related biological events here in the Top End. I lost them all in a fire 17 August 1991. That was the third time that I had lost my library, my files and my notebooks. It was a devastating experience.
On 1 March 2001 I opened a new notebook and began to record my observations again. I have continued with that record, apart from a few short breaks, to the present time. I have a more or less complete record of the events that I noticed during the great millennium drought here at Humpty Doo.
What I am trying to do with this ALMANAC is to write a simple narrative account of these events. I think of it as a backbone description to which I and others can add other notes. Notes about other events or notes that analyse the record in various ways. I intend to avoid an analysis of the record until I have completed this simple narrative account. As of 28 February 2013 I had notes covering a period of 12 years. It has been a labour of love. I am not getting any younger. I want to share this story. I am trying to work on it three days a week. The Express Edition is only a tentative first draft of the story. I am publishing it on my blog.
And that my friends was how the climate year ended in 2013.
Copyright Strider , Humpty Doo, 27 May 2013.
First published on the blog
All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

STRIDERS ALMANAC The Express Edition Vol 1 Part 7

STRIDERS ALMANAC – The Express Edition
Volume 1, Part 7. 21 January to 10 February 2013.
The springs stopped flowing and the soil dried out. (21 days)
Monday 21 January 2013.
It was a sunny and very windy morning with lots of trough cumulus clouds about. The wind was on its way to the low in the Gulf of Carpentaria. There was 19 mm of rain in the gauge at Starshine at 0900 hrs. At 1240 hrs the sky was clearing, and at 1350 hrs ( under a cloud shadow ) there were cooling downdrafts from the N.W.. It was very windy and fairly dim. At 1405 hrs it began to rain. It was only a little shower. It was all over in about 5 minutes.
The spring-line on the floodplain had fallen so that it was 15 steps away to the N from the line of trees (on a crack) that crosses the footpath from Starshine to White Gum. The spring-line would normally be right on that crack at this time of year. Evidently the water-table under the floodplain was quite low for this time of the year.
There was a fairly general flowering of the Bush Potato ( Eriosema chinense ) at Jimol on this day.
Tuesday 22 January 2013.
It was a sunny and windy morning with big clouds. There was 1 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. There were some overcast periods and a few monsoon showers about. Some thunder was heard. The wind was very strong at some times. It probably was the fastest sustained wind here since 21 January 2012.
I noticed that Golden Beard Grass ( Chrysopogon fallax ) was in flower throughout the district. This is the first of the “Speargrass” type grasses to flower here, and it goes on flowering for a long time too.
Wednesday 23 January 2013.
It was overcast at dawn and the temperature in the room at Starshine was 25.5 degrees C. There was 12 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. At 1000 hrs the sun was shining and it was breezy with low cumulus cloud.
Thursday 24 January 2013.
There was no rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. It was a breezy and cloudy day.
Friday 25 January 2013.
The wind was gone and the day was calm. It was overcast and a bit dim. There was no rain in the gauge. It did not rain on this day. I noticed flowers on the Colour Tree ( Pogonolobus reticulatus ) and two Burdekin Ducks swimming in the creek by the Pandanus Bridge.
The Full Moon occurred at 0209 hrs on Sunday 27 January. I was at Wrigley Creek at the time.
Wednesday 30 January 2013.
I returned to Humpty Doo from Wrigley Creek on this day. It was a very hot and humid day. A mid-afternoon thunderstorm provided very welcome cooling downdrafts. I got home to Starshine just
Before dark and just before it began to rain again. There was 20 mm of rain in the gauge when I got home. It drizzled on for half the night after the second storm and I slept very well.
Thursday 31 January 2013.
It was sunny in the morning. I noticed that the Opilia fruiting was over and that the Nutmeg Pigeons were gone. It was all still happening when I left for Wrigley Creek on the 27th ( the day of the Full Moon ).
Red Collared Lorrikeets were calling to the S.W. of Starshine. They were feeding on the flowers of the Xanothostemon Trees. There was a gathering of the birds to this food source. The flowering of these trees ( Xanthostemon paradoxus ) began on this day, I think.
In the afternoon there was an unusual big thunderstorm with a tightly focussed radial structure. I first saw it from Leanyer and I photographed it from there to Strangways Road as I drove home. It was a late afternoon thunderstorm from the S.E. and it was fast moving. It rained at Starshine from 1857 to 1931 hrs and 34 mm of rain fell from it there in that brief time span. There was a delicious cooling downdraft from that storm.
The details escape me but I noticed a big change in the line up of flowering herbs in the parking lot at night. One newcomer being a Heliotropium.
Friday 1 February 2013.
In the late afternoon I was at Green Drinks at Noonamah Tavern, for the first Friday of the month gathering of the workers in the environmental revolution/transformation/cultural evolution movement. Just after darkness fell there was a thunderstorm with particularly violent South winds. The squalls brought down a rain of kindling wood, and firewood, and some small trees were blown over. They must have been the strongest winds for quite some time. It was a ‘mortality wind’ for trees 2-3 metres tall that had been piped by termites. The cooling downdrafts gave me a good night.
Saturday 2 February 2013.
Rain to 0900 hrs (at Jimol) was 15 mm. It was hot and sunny in the morning and the Babblers were calling nearby. It was overcast from about 1440 hrs. During the day I noticed that the flowering of the Green Flowering Paperbarks had become general throughout the district. On the swamp edges ‘the honey wind’ was blowing, gently. You could smell its intoxicating reality as you drove over creek crossings on the roads.
There were isolated late afternoon and evening thunderstorms, and there was a most amazing very big HECTOR storm. It was a hot night at Palmerston, which is where I was.
Sunday 3 February 2013.
Storms went up in the afternoon. I drove through a big storm with intense rain on my way from Darwin to Solar Village in the late afternoon. I got home to Jimol to find an empty rain gauge.
I saw one (isolated) Swamp Bloodwood Tree ( Corymbia polycarpa ) near the Berrimah Prison in full flower ( or something very like it). These were the first flowers that I had seen on this species for this season.
The Babblers were calling again near Starshine.
Monday 4 February 2013.
I woke at 0340 hrs feeling cold. There had been some cooling downdrafts the previous evening but it seemed as if a big area of air cooled by downdrafts had moved over Solar Village around 0300 hrs. The air temperature in the room was 24 degrees C and the air was probably much less humid than it had been. A hazy morning followed.
I was at Raki in the afternoon when a Rainbow Cloud developed (at 1636 hrs).
I noticed some Cocky Apple seedlings in the Paperbark swamp at Raki. This seems to be the one species that has produced a lot of seedlings in this (and the previous) year. The seedlings would not usually survive in this swamp, but this year they did.
Tuesday 5 February 2013.
The general flowering of the Green Flowered Paperbarks continued and the Black Flying Foxes continued to visit them at night at Solar Village.
There was some cloud during the day and a sort of a HECTOR storm to the North of us. AT 2230 hrs the temperature (in the room at Starshine) was 28 degrees C.
Wednesday 6 February 2013.
At 0300 hrs the air temperature was down to 26 degrees C. The sky was clear and there was radiative cooling. Another hot and mostly still day followed. Cloud developed early. To begin with it came from the N.W. but later in the day it came from the N.E. Once again there was a sort of a HECTOR to the North of us. In the late afternoon a thunderstorm swept by just to the N. of Solar Village but no rain fell at Jimol.
I took photographs to show the dry soil on this day.
Thursday 7 February 2013.
The soil surface was quite dry on the terrace and the spring line on the floodplain had fallen all the way back to the Yazoo stream. This was very unusual for this time of year. There was no local surface soil moisture source for night time evaporation or dewfall. It was another very quiet night. Quiet like a mid-winter night. I had noticed this unseasonal night time quietness in Darwin on the night 1-2 January.
I woke just before dawn. One distant Barking Owl was calling and I was feeling cold, due to the dry air I suppose. The air temperature in the room was 24 degrees C at that time.
Friday 8 February 2013.
I took photographs to show the dry swamp north of Horns Creek and West of the hut at White Gum.
Saturday 9 February 2013.
Chinese New Years Eve. I attended a celebration of the event at Raki.
Sunday 10 February 2013
The Dark Moon occurred at 0451 hrs. The general flowering of the Green Flowered Paperbark Trees continued.
I noticed that the introduced Indian Blue Grass ( Bothriochloa pertusa ) looked particularly shiny and silky on the un-slashed roadsides. It really is a very bad weed, and it is being spread very rapidly by roadside slashing. It was originally brought here as a lawn grass and it tolerates slashing and mowing very well. It was not so obvious on this day in the slashed areas, but it was very obvious where it had not been slashed. This might be a good time of year to conduct a survey of its current distribution.
Copyright Strider, Humpty Doo, 17 May 2013.
First published on the blog
All rights reserved.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Volume 1, Part 6 A heatwave and then the creek begins to flow
1-20 January 2013, a period of 20 days
Tuesday 1 January 2013-04-19
There was another hot night and the wind was from the N.E. which put us in the rain-shadow downwind from the mountains in New Guinea, and in air warmed by compression as it returned to sea level from those mountains. A hot day with some clouds followed. Storms were visible inland from Darwin. I was in Darwin on that day. There was no rain and no cooling downdrafts there.
Wednesday 2 January 2013.
In Darwin there was another hot night. I noticed that it was very quiet. Quite like a night in the dead of winter in fact. There was very little in the way of bird calls frog or insect noises. It was a little spooky. There were some clouds at dawn and it was overcast with low dark cloud at 0624 hrs. At 0638 hrs the air temperature was 29 degrees C. That was the time of the first light breeze for the day. The sky was full of tightly packed cumulus clouds.
I made it home to Starshine to celebrate the Perihelion at 1430 hrs CST. I noticed that there was a lot of cloud over the Tiwi Islands and Coburg Peninsular after the morning overcast broke up.
Thursday 3 January 2013.
There was 4.5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. A mid-afternoon thunderstorm brought some rain and some very cooling downdrafts. The temperature went down to 26.5 degrees C.
Friday 4 January 2013.
There was 9 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. There were storms about during the day.
Saturday 5 January 2013.
I drove to Wrigley Creek and arrived just in time for an evening thunderstorm.
Monday 7 January 2013.
I was not there myself but a neighbour tells me that there were 2 thunderstorms at the Solar Village. One in the afternoon, and one in the evening.
Tuesday 8 January 2013.
I got home to Starshine at 1400 hrs to find 76 mm of rain in the gauge. I think that all of it was from the storms on the 7th. We finally got lucky with the isolated thunderstorms and got two in one day.
Friday 11 January 2013.
It was another very warm night although it did eventually cool down to 25 degrees C at 0530 hrs. A hot day followed. The Australian continent as a whole experienced an extreme heat wave in early January. It was very hot here if we didn’t get a cooling downdraft from a storm.
In the mid-afternoon thunderstorms began to arrive from the East and there were cooling downdrafts. Rain began to fall at 1750 hrs and the temperature went down to 27 degrees C. 4.5 mm of rain fell from that storm.
Page 2
The maps showed an inactive monsoon trough right on top of us, and moving out to sea. This was the same relatively inactive monsoon trough that had passed over us on its way South on the afternoon of Thursday 27 December 2012. So ; all told, it had been over us or to the South of us for 16 days. It came onto the continent very close to the time of the Full Moon (which was as 1951 hrs on Friday 28 December), and it went back out to sea just before the Dark Moon on Saturday 12 January.
Saturday 12 January 2013.
The Dark Moon occurred at 0515 hrs on this day. Some friends visited me to help me plant some trees. It was overcast, calm, humid and dim at 1130 hrs. It was overcast all day and very hot and humid. Towards sunset time a dark storm appeared in the N.E. sky. It was moving very fast and it was coming straight at us. It was still daylight as we hurried for shelter and a moment later when we were on the verandah it was night time and it was raining. The sudden arrival of the night was phenomenal. None of us could recall another occasion on which night had fallen so abruptly. There was a great deal of thunder and lightning with this storm. There was 56 mm of rain in the gauge at 2230 hrs. Drizzle was still falling at that time. I noticed a gathering of snails on the ashy floor of an old campfire when I went to read the rain gauge. Earlier in the day I had noticed some ripe fruit on some Canthium Trees ( Canthium lucidum ) along the creek.
Sunday 13 January 2013.
The drizzle ended at 0200 hrs but it began to rain again a little later and there were at least two more showers of rain (without any thunder) between then and dawn. It was a steady gentle light monsoon rain. It was a flood rain. At 0736 hrs the air temperature was 24.5 degrees C and light rain was falling. I went for a walk and discovered that the creek was running, at last. At 0800 hrs a Channel Billed Cuckoo was calling and the rain seemed to be easing. There was a total of 75 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs (including the 56 mm already mentioned in the record for the 12th). The Babblers were calling to the N.W. at 0910 hrs.
It is a fact that some of our heaviest rainfalls are associated with the transit of the monsoon trough or the Inter- tropic Convergence (the ITC). It did rather seem as if the trough that was “over head and going out to sea” on Friday the 11th had turned around and crossed the coast again, heading back inland with that very dark storm at nightfall on Saturday the 12th.
The rain associated with this latest transit event (and a Dark Moon rain at that) started the creek running. It is fairly normal for the creek to start flowing in mid-January. I think that we could call the event “on time” this year.
Monday 14 January 2013.
I spent the night 13-14 January at Lakewood and I was up early to inspect the Olive Hymenachne ( Hymenachne acutigluma ) weed infestation with Glen Roberts of the Litchfield Council (and others).
We found the effected area flooded, and agreed that further action would have to wait until the area dried out again.
The commonest type of Paperbark Tree here in this district, the Green Flowered Paperbark Tree ( Melaleuca viridiflora ) was in flower generally in the district on this day. The perfume was very nice.
Page 3
Tuesday 15 January 2013.
I slept in my own bed at Starshine overnight 14-15 January. I was up early. The mozzies were very noticeable, if not actually bad, on that morning. Rain associated with the latest transit of the ITC (as it went inland) began at 1430 hrs. By 1500 hrs there was 13.5 mm of rain in the gauge. The monsoon burst remains very weak and it produces very little rain.
Wednesday 16 January 2013.
In something of a turn up for the books the mozzies were gone. Their absence was very noticeable.
There had been a very long and a very heavy fruiting season for the Opilia Vines ( Opilia amentacea ) . For only the second time in my experience this fruiting has attracted a great many Nutmeg Pigeons to the Solar Village. The very large number of Opilia Vines here today is a direct result of the way that the Nutmeg Pigeons spread the seeds around on the previous occasion. I think that the Opilias are a kind of a drought reserve that the pigeons use in hard times. On the previous occasion some of the pigeons roosted here for the duration but this does not seem to be the case this time. At 0710 hrs on the 16th the pigeons were arriving in dribs and drabs from the North East. There were a lot of them
From December and into January their wing claps as they flew away was the soundtrack to every walk in the bush. They would be disturbed by me, and fly up, up and away, before me. I grew to rather like the sound.
On this day I noticed that the Fan Leaved Bloodwood Trees ( Corymbia foelscheana ) were in very heavy flower. I can not recall ever seeing them in such heavy flower before. There was speculation that the very dry season that we were having was resulting in heavy fruiting because the development of the flowers and fruits was not retarded by periods of water-logging in the soil. There was enough rain. It was frequent enough, and there was enough sunshine. Many plants seemed to be doing particularly well in this season. Established plants that is. It was too dry for new seedlings. At night the Black Flying foxes were attracted in large numbers to the flowering Bloodwood Trees and their calls provided the soundtrack to the nights.
Thursday 17 January 2013.
The morning was overcast. The air was at 24.5 degrees C at 0800 hrs after a cool downdraft in the night. There was no rain and the mozzies had returned.
At 0945 hrs there was a mob of Nutmeg Pigeons in the Opilia near the big Bush Peanut Tree ( Sterculia quadrifida ) to the N.E. of Starshine. It was calm, cool and dim.
Friday 18 January 2013.
It was overcast at dawn. At 0945 hrs there was a monsoon shower and distant thunder. The weather conditions that developed locally very soon after that suggested a rain band of clouds, like the rain bands that are associated with Tropical Cyclones. I drove to Darwin but it was dry there. Later on in the day there were rain band conditions there too. I spent the night in Darwin.
Shortly before midnight the Green Tree Frogs began to sing “First Burst”, my favourite song.
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Saturday 19 January 2013.
At dawn the Green Tree Frogs sang “Wurrk”. It had rained a lot. It continued to rain on and off.
Sunday 20 January 2013.
I arrived home to Starshine at about 0010 hrs. I had a long sleep. At 1030 hrs there was 75 mm of rain in the gauge (accumulated since 1500 hrs on the 15th). There was a low in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the rain bands that we experienced were flowing into it. I think that almost all of the rain in the gauge would have fallen from those rain bands on the 18th and the 19th.
For the first 10 days of this period we had a return to build-up conditions. We had isolated thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon and evening. This was in stark contrast with the previous period 27-31 December 2012 when we had rain associated with the transit of the monsoon trough ( going inland ). The first 10 days of January saw extreme heat wave conditions all over the Australian continent. It was a phenomenal event.
On the 11th the monsoon trough ( in a particularly inactive state ) was right on top of us and going out to sea. It then hesitated, and turned back passing over us on its way back inland at nightfall on the 12th. Rain associated with this latest transit of the trough and the ITC continued until the 15th.
During the period 18-20 January 2013 there were monsoonal conditions related to a low near Nhulunbuy.
And that my friends was how the new year began in the very fruitful forest here at Horns Creek.
Copyright, Strider, Humpty Doo, 2013-04-20
First published on the blog
All rights reserved

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Strider, THE FUTURE OF THE PASTORAL INDUSTRY IN AUSTRALIA’S NORTHERN TERRITORY ( Being a formal response to the proposed amendments to the Pastoral Lands Act and the proposal to introduce a Native Vegetation Bill in 2011). Written 30 May 2011.
I have before me as I write ,a copy of a media release that was issued by Karl Hampton, Minister for Natural Resources in the Northern Territory Government, dated 24 March 2011. The release is headed “Better Land Management For the 21 st Century”.
The Minister is quoted in that document as saying. “The Territory Government believes in protecting the environment and the pastoral industry and that’s why we have developed landmark legislation to achieve this goal.”
In my opinion the Minister can protect one or another of these two things but not both together. Shall we call it Mission Impossible ? What he seems to have done in the end is to opt for protecting the pastoral industry at the expense of the environment.
This is what I said to the Northern Territory Bushfires Council when I applied to be appointed as a Member of the Council, 11 February 2011.
“ Desertification caused by the Pastoral Industry is the most important ecological issue in the Territory today. A genuine eco-catastrophe is in progress because of cheap and nasty fire management. To my perception the Council has been too much of a Pastoral Industry Club for too long. The industry is not (and cannot be) ecologically sustainable despite a provision in the Act that the pastoral use of land must be sustainable. We have a genuine ecocatastrophe and a real political crisis here. I think that you need me on the Council in these circumstances and that is why I am volunteering.”
It would appear as if the Minister is unaware of the ongoing ecocatastrophe and the impossibility of protecting the environment and the pastoral industry simultaneously. I would guess that the Minister is also not aware that the grazing of beef cattle in Central and Northern Australia was identified as ecologically un-sustainable in the 1996 national State of the Environment report.
There is very recent publication, “Into Oblivion The disappearing mammals of northern Australia”, that was compiled by James Fitzsimons, Sarah Legge, Barry Trail and John Woinarski that gives us a situation report on the mammals. This report is available online and as hard copy from it portrays a truly shocking situation.
I myself produced a situation report on the status of the trees in our forests and woodlands, “The Secret of the Layered Forest” in 2008. The report was published in the September edition of the newsletter of the Environment Centre N.T., “environmeNT”. It interpreted the information that was reported in the “Vegetation Survey of the Northern Territory” 1991. I supplied the Minister (for the Environment) of the day with my analysis of this data. She was kind enough to confirm that the information contained in the vegetation survey report had never been officially analysed or evaluated by government. My analysis of the data was confined to the area north of Daly Waters.
I described the overall situation in the following terms.
“ Very soon after 1870, cattle were introduced into the north Australian ecosystem, By 1920 the cattle herd was big and a severe drought had concentrated the stock near water. In 1920 the whole of the Northern Territory was burned by the’Oodnadatta Fire’ after a wet year. The land has never recovered from those disasters.
The pastoral occupation of the lands had drastic consequences for the Aboriginal people and their traditional economy. The new fire management regime imposed on the land by the pastoralists blocked the recruitment of new individuals to the mid-stratum and the upper-stratum of the forests and woodlands, Grazing and trampling by cattle and other introduced stock animals wrecked the lower-stratum. Frequent burning has stopped the nutrient recycling systems in the soil from working well and nutrients are being lost from the system. Many trees are sterile or nearly so because they are malnourished due to the nutrient recycling failure.
It is a great pity that more people do not understand the situation. It is a great pity that people who should know better keep on mouthing platitudes about “our unspoilt natural environment”. In the circumstances this amounts to big lie propaganda.
I think that we could call the general standard of fire management in the Northern Territory “cheap and nasty” and view it as a natural disaster. I do not think that the pastoral industry would be profitable if it had to deliver the sort of fire management and the rest from grazing that is needed to restore our forests and woodlands to a state of health. Perhaps the Federal Government will declare a state of emergency and compulsorily acquire the Pastoral Leases in the Northern Territory ? As things stand today, we are fiddling while Rome burns, as it were.”
As things stand today the Department and the Minister seem to me to be fiddling while Rome burns, and peddling big lie propaganda. What is this bullshit about protecting both the environment and the pastoral industry simultaneously ? How should the headline go ?
The Minister’s media release went on to say.
“ This legislative reform will ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes of our southern counterparts so that we keep our landscapes and ecosystems healthy.”
In his famous essay THE LAND ETHIC in 1949 Aldo Leopold said that.
“ A land ethic then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity. “
My own field research in the Top End causes me to believe that in the bush; all of the existing big trees were already big in 1870, and that the land stopped self-renewing in 1920. There is a blockage stopping new recruitment, and the overall productivity of the eco-system has probably been reduced by half since 1870.
I find the Minister’s bland reassurance that the reforms will keep our landscapes healthy quite incredible, I find it to be big lie propaganda.
Nor am I taken in by the line that “the reforms will ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes of our southern counterparts”. I appears to me that this is exactly the result to be expected from these reforms. More big lie propaganda.
Even the title of the “Vegetation Management Bill” is a big lie. It should be called the “Land Clearing Bill”. Like the existing “land clearing guidelines” it will be based on at least two false premises and have been quite inapropriatey imported to the tropics from some ruined temperate climate State in eastern Australia. This is a very bad practical joke. Land clearing has catastrophic consequences here. It probably did there too but they decided to ignore that fact. The document is an elaborate facade of denial and spin in my opinion. All smoke and mirrors. An intricate big lie.
Large scale land clearing for agriculture and pastoralism in the Northern Territory should be stopped. This is how I described the situation in a letter to the Northern Territory Pastoral Land Board, 28 January 2011.
“ In tropical woodland situations most of the nutrient elements are located in the standing crop of vegetation rather than in the soil. The fertility of these systems depends on rapid and leak-proof nutrient recycling. Fungi associated with the tree roots are believed to play a vital role in the recycling process, and the lingo-tuberous roots of the trees hold nutrient drought reserves. If the trees are removed there will be a serious loss of nutrients by downward leaching, we can be confident of that fact. “
This is a notoriously well known fact in ecological and geographical circles, and it has been that way for a hundred years or so. How can this well known fact be overlooked by the Government and it’s advisers ? It begins to look like a wilful and cultivated ignorance to me. A facet of the institutional culture within the Department ? It looks like systemic corruption to me. The corruption of denial and wishful- thinking perhaps( rather than the money- changes –hands form of corruption ) : but bad and corrupt government for all that.
I was very disappointed that the need to abolish the pastoral industry was overlooked in the Northern Territory Integrated Natural Resouce Management Plan 2010-2015 that was produced by the Natural Resource Management Board (NT) in 2010. Why did they overlook this matter ? Was it a failure of imagination or a failure of nerve ? I have asked a few people that question. Failure of nerve is the popular theory. I would like to say something about the possibility that a failure of imagination is also involved. People can not even begin to imagine the Northern Territory without a pastoral industry. When I suggest it they are shocked. It is something that many people “take for granted”. A common reaction to the suggestion is to observe that the industry is politically powerful, and to expect that no change will eventuate, for that reason. I simply wish to point out that the industry is a house of cards, in ecological terms. It is very vulnerable to criticism. It really should be shut down.
The Pastoral Land Act of 1992 makes it vey clear that the pastoral use of land must be sustainable. I have little doubt that this means ecologically sustainable In accordance with the National Strategy
for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSED) 1992, and the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE) 1992.
The Northern Territory Environment Protection Agency, in it’s report “Ecologically Sustainable Development in the Northern Territory” 2010, said that.
“ The maintenance of ecological integrity involves preserving processes which shape climate, cleanse air and water, regulate water flow, recycle essential elements, create and regenerate soil and enable ecosystems to renew themselves. Maintaining ecological integrity involves maintaining and preserving ecosystem health, functioning and services.”
The EPA report went on to say. “the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity should be a fundamental consideration in decision making”.
Let us look at the facts. The industry has been exporting nutrient elements in stock for more than 100 years without making any attempt to replace them with fertiliser. This is a serious matter. This is theft pure and simple.
This theft inevitably weakens the ecosystems and sabotages the natural essential element recycling systems. It inevitably reduces the nett primary productivity of the ecosystems. It has probably already brought that productivity down from 20 tonnes of Carbon fixed per Hectare per year to 10 tonnes. There are Carbon budget implications in this calculation. Large and important implications.
The fire regimes imposed by the industry have also caused a loss of nutrients to the atmosphere. And the removal of organic matter that should have been food for the organic recycling system in the soil. The fires have also killed young trees so that the recruitment of new trees to the community has been blocked. Soil compaction, trampling and grazing have also damaged the soil and the hydrology, and blocked the recruitment of new trees. I many places it seems that run-off of rain water has increased by a factor of 10, so that the infiltration of water into the soil ( and to some extend down to the underground water supply) has been reduced to one tenth of what it was.
Central Australia holds the Guinesses Book of Records, record for the most mammal extinctions on the planet in modern time. This disaster was caused by grazing beef cattle in the Northern Territory. Read “Flying Fox and Drifting Sand” by Francis Ratcliffe if you want the gory details. The events are adequately documented, there and elsewhere.
Cattle did not co-evolve with the Australian biota and its ecosystems in antiquity. Inevitably they are parasitic grit in the machinery of our ecosystem. How could it be otherwise ? How could the pastoral industry possibly be ecologically sustainable in the Northern Territory ? Mission impossible indeed !
One very important ecosystem service in the Northern Territory is the provision of fire management services to the ecosystem by human beings. Humans are the fire management specialist organism on this planet and the whole biota depends on us for this vital ecosystem service. There is a grave conflict between the fire regimes required to conserve biological diversity (and ecological integrity) and the fire regimes that suit the pastoralists. Inadequate and unsatisfactory fire management seems to be an inevitable side effect of the pastoral occupation of the land.
I believe that we should cut our ecological losses and shut the industry down now. The industry is not ecologically sustainable, and it is not economically viable. It is an anachronism in modern Australia.
The fact that cattle stations in Northern Australia have been un-profitable for the last 5 years or so has recently been reported by the ABC.
What the government is trying to do is to make the stations profitable again by allowing them to diversify into non-pastoral business operations. Exactly the wrong thing to do in my opinion. What we should be doing is working out how to replace the fire management role of the industry and organise appropriate compensation for the lessees when the industry is closed down. It is quite simply wrong to soldier on with the old “Kings in Grass Castles” view of pastoralism. I would like to see the Pastoral Industry Abolition Bill introduced into the N.T. Parliament in 2012.
Since 1980 I have been living at the Solar Village in Humpty Doo. A deliberate effort has been made to exclude fire from the Solar Village area, in a spirit of scientific experiment, since 1979. I have seen recruitment to the upper levels of the forests and woodlands resume. I have seen a tree flower after being protected from fire for 13 years. The system can recover to a considerable extent once stock is removed and it is given a rest from fire. Obviously it will not be able to recover the fertility and productivity that it had in 1870, but it can be nursed back to a better state of health. In ecosystem first aid terms, we need to stop the present rapid nutrient loss. Think of it as “stopping the bleeding”. The first priority is to obtain effective control over fire. Our efforts in that direction have been inadequate to date. I would not have you think that the situation is hopeless. The situation is serious and we do need to address it as a matter of urgency.
The legislation that the government currently proposes would be counter-productive in my opinion. It would be part of the problem, not part of the solution. It would waste valuable time and increase the cost of shutting the industry down. It would allow the ecocatastrophe to continue. It would be a tragic mistake.
It disturbs me that the legislative proposal is accompanied by a barrage of big lie propaganda launched by the Minister. I suspect that the Minister has been badly advised by the Department.
I have conveyed my thoughts on these matters to the previous inquiry into the Pastoral Land Act . I have been lobbying this point of view for some time now. I do not believe that the Department can say it does not know the score. It pretends not to know, in my opinion. I do not think that it is good enough.
The grazing of beef cattle in central and northern Australia was identified as ecologically un-sustainable in the national State of the Environment report in 1996. The un-sustainable pastoral use of land has been illegal in the Northern Territory since the passing of the Pastoral Land Act in 1992.
(document ends)

Saturday, April 6, 2013


STRIDERS ALMANAC – the express edition
Vol 1 Part 5 2 April 2013 page 1
Part 5 Watching Hector go up and then a monsoon burst
11 – 31 December, a period of 21 days
Tuesday 11 December 2012
I was in Darwin on this day and from there I saw a sea-breeze cloud front inland from Darwin in the afternoon. It looked as if it might be over my home at Humpty Doo. It turned out that it was, and there was 6 mm of rain in the gauge at Solar Village at 0900 hrs on the morning of Wednesday 12 December. This was the first clear case of a sea-breeze cloud front inland from Darwin that I observed this season.
Wednesday 12 December 2012
I was in Darwin staying at the Alawa Crescent house. At 0238 hrs the house instruments recorded the outside air at 30 degrees C with 73 % relative humidity. It was very warm. After this hot night there was a morning terminator thunderstorm at dawn. Only a brief storm but very nice for all that.
The day was hot and sunny and all day long there was a storm about. I can not be certain but I fancy that it was the same storm that had visited us at dawn. It is most unusual for a storm to hang about all day like that.
I went to Humpty Doo with a friend to water my baby plants and to plant some grass in a roadside drain. The idea was to plant a native semi-aquatic grass in the drain in the hope that it might help the plant community there resist invasion by the very rampant exotic weed “Tully Grass” ( Urochloa humidicola ). To that end we visited the paperbark forest at Lakewood and dug up some grass plants from the fire-break there. We thought that we were digging up Paspalum scrobiculatum but we were in fact digging up a species of Love Grass ( Eragrostris sp. ). I think that we can call it the Paperbark Love Grass for now. Evidently it looks a lot like the Paspalum at this time of year when the tussocks are small and I was confused by this similarity. We planted a line of this Love Grass across the drain on the hill-top on Dalgety Road. We also potted some of them up, and I held some individuals in a bucket of water. They are still in the bucket and look none the worse for the experience now in early April. The individuals that I potted up were eaten down to fairly short by an Agile Wallaby very soon after I put them out in my nursery area. I moved them up onto a bench. They survived and grew back.
This Paperbark Love Grass grows naturally in association with the Paspalum and we might as well plant them together. It is a very beautiful and hardy grass. It is a knee high perennial tussock grass. A few of the ones that we planted in the drain survived my neglect and the dry weather.
Thursday 13 December 2012
It was overcast at dawn and cloudy later. The standing cloud Hector went up over the Tiwi Islands early in the afternoon and the storm over the Rum Jungle Uranium Mine also went up at the same time.
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There was a sea-breeze cloud front inland from Darwin later on in the day. It was a very warm night but I slept comfortably at Alawa without turning the ceiling fan on.
Friday 14 December 2012
It was an overcast day with some tiny showers of rain.
Saturday 15 December 2012
In one of my experiments with the seasons I have used this day as a New Years Eve, and the eve of a season 4 months long (16 December to 15 March) . It is quite a workable system with a lot to recommend it. I visited my home at Humpty Doo and had a lovely homecoming experience. A thunderstorm began to flash and boom as I came in sight of my little cottage in the mid-afternoon. I paused there looking at it “on the threshold of a dream”. Rain fell from that storm from 1615 hrs. There were cooling downdrafts and there was 10 mm of rain. It was nice to be at home again.
Sunday 16 December 2012
It was very hot overnight 15-16 December. The morning was overcast. In my travels I noticed the very first flowers for the season on a few of the Green Flowered Paperbark Trees ( Melaleuca viridiflora ) at several locations. That first flowering made a good ‘sign of the times’ seasonal marker.
Monday 17 December 2012
It was a hot and humid day with an early Hector storm over the Tiwi Islands. There had been an early Hector every day since the first one that I noticed on Tuesday the 13th. There was also a storm cloud over Coburg Peninsular on the 17th.
Tuesday 18 December 2012
It was an overcast and humid day. I was so tired that I had to have a rest day.
Wednesday 19 December 2012
I spent the night 18-19 December in Darwin. I noticed that the frogs were very noisy despite the fact that there was no rain. Darwin has become something of an artificial rainforest since 1974. I call it “a sprinkler jungle”. The frogs were very excited in Darwin on that night but I suspect that they were very quiet in rainless areas away from the city. Darwin probably has its own calendar in many ways these days.
There was a spectacular display of what I am calling “doldrums cumulus” on the morning of the 19th. It was a very beautiful skyscape. There was 37 mm of rain in the gauge at Solar Village at 0900 hrs, it probably fell on the afternoon of the 18th.
It was sunny with a little cloud in the afternoon. There was a termite swarming at night at Lakewood. It was a very warm and humid night. I used the ceiling fan.
Thursday 20 December 2012
The morning was overcast and calm. It was overcast all day apart from some direct and bright Sunshine around noon. This is an interesting phenomenon. “Sunshine at noon” in an otherwise overcast day is a reversal of the more common “mid-day cloudiness” on an otherwise bright and sunny day.
Page 3
I discovered a fire burning in one of the bushy parts of the Taminmin High School Farm in the late afternoon. It was an area with a lot of Pandanus ( Pandanus spiralis ). I do wonder what sort of a ‘wet season burning’ experiment this was. The fire burned into and through an area of Tully Grass that did not look as if it could possibly burn. It was so dense, lush and green, but the fire burned through it and made quite a lot of smoke in the process.
I also noticed that this same Tully Grass was in flower, generally, in the roadside drains on this day. I had noticed the very first flowers in just a few places on Saturday the 8th. So it took 12 days from the first flowers opening to the flowering becoming general. It interests me that the flowering was general on the day before the Summer Solstice. Once again I was so tired that I had to have a rest day. It is hard to get enough rest and sleep at this time of the year.
It was the Eve of the Summer Solstice, and the 4 month long super-season 21 December to 20 April in my latest experiment with the seasons.
Friday 21 December 2012
This was the day of the Summer Solstice. The night 20-21 December was very hot and humid. I used the ceiling fan at Lakewood. There was rain and some cooling downdrafts from a thunderstorm at 0240 hrs. At Solar Village there was 20 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. At 0926 I noted that6 it was “suspiciously dim”. It was so dim as to suggest the proximity of the inter-tropic convergence. The sky did clear later in the day.
The Solstice occurred at 2040 hrs CST. It seemed to me that the closest dawn to the Solstice would be on the morning of Saturday the 22nd and I made arrangements to view that dawn from a high place with a few friends.
Saturday 22 December 2012
We got up at Wrigley Creek at 0421 hrs and set out to travel to Dawn Rock in the dark. We made the last and difficult part of the climb in the twilight of the approaching dawn. Once upon a time I lived under a rock overhang below Dawn Rock. On the morning of 22 December 1974 I climbed up on top of the rock to watch the Sun rise, and I saw something that I had never seen before, and that I have not seen since. I saw a thin vertical column of condensation rise up into the air above every water hole and spring in the district. It was a most peculiar and striking phenomenon. Towards the evening of that same day I walked down the hill to the Stuart Highway and began to hitchhike to Darwin and so into the path of a great storm. Our visit in 2012 was 38 years on to the day from the morning in 1974 when I saw the columns of mist standing over the waterholes.
In 2012 the area around Dawn Rock had been burned by a fire and many bushes had been killed by it. The Spinifex tussocks had all been burned away. The only signs of new life on this day were lots and lots of young Commelina seedlings ( Commelina ensifolia ). It was very cloudy and we did not see the Sun rise.
Sunday 23 December 2012
This was another overcast day at Wrigley Creek. My friends took me through a low pass in the hills that I will call West Gate, and on to a little spring fed creek beyond it to look at the Spring Bloodwood Trees ( Corymbia ptychocarpa ) that grow there. Some of the trees were in flower.
Page 4
We dug up a few of the tree seedlings so as to transplant them.
The pass at West Gate is a low saddle between the heads of two creeks. I am curious about the fire history of the place. I can see how useful a small firebreak in this saddle might be. It the area was burned out very early in the season the fuel free area would stop a fire from burning from one hill to the other , whilst the creeks were still acting as firebreaks. Later on in the season when the valley floors are ready to burn and the fires tend to follow the creek lines such a little saddle firebreak would stop a fire from crossing over from one creek to the other. So a firebreak in this saddle could prevent the spread of fire in two different directions at two different times of the year.
There is a rather similar saddle a little way away to the South East of the Solar Village. On the steep and rather rubbley hill slopes above that saddle there are some clonal patches of bushes of the Colour Tree ( Pogonolobus reticulatus ) . A friend tells me that it is the places where this tree grows that are burned first on Bathurst Island. This suggests that an early firebreak might have been burned in this saddle.
To the West of the West Gate saddle there is a relatively densely packed population of the little Sand Palm ( Livistona humilis ) in a sandy area at the head of the creek. My friend tells me that the earliest fires on Bathurst Island are made by setting fire to the dry leaves on this sort of palm. This produces an intense burst of radiant heat so that the grass under the palms will burn but the fire will not travel beyond the palm grove into the adjoining grass if you get the timing right. Right in terms of the degree of curing of the grass fuel and the time of day at which you burn. Has this practice been employed here in the past ?
Monday 24 December 2012
A real change in the weather was signalled when convergence rain began to fall at 0415 hrs. It was so nice. There was no thunder with it. This was air stream convergence rain not thunderstorm rain. It did seem as if a monsoon burst might be getting under way. In the very late afternoon the clouds were very low and they were racing overhead from the North East. I was reminded very much of the conditions in Darwin at the same time of the day on Xmas Eve in 1974.
Then, suddenly and quite unexpectedly , a very strong and steady North East wind arrived on the ground, and I freaked out. I felt myself go into a state of shock, and I was very frightened. I know that it is called ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ and that most survivors of Cyclone Tracy suffer from it to some extent. My reaction on this occasion was quite severe and I was pretty much lost in that emotional reaction over the next few days. It was not a nice experience.
Wednesday 26 December 2012
I visited Solar Village and found 7.5 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. There were signs that there had been a strong wind there. Quite big pot plants had been thrown over by the wind. It was a very hot day. A storm or two slipped by to the North of us travelling from East to West. The wind on the ground was from the South at times. It seemed as if we were still to the South of the ITC (the inter-tropic convergence or the monsoon shear) at that time.
Page 5
Thursday 27 December 2012
There was another 7.5 mm of rain in the gauge at Jimol at 0900 hrs. In the afternoon a storm arrived from the North East and it rather seems as if the ITC passed over us at that time. I took a photograph of two thunderstorms dancing back to back shortly before that combined storm swept over us.
Friday 28 December 2012
There was 31 mm of rain in the gauge at 1500 hrs on this day. That is really not a lot of rain . I expect a lot more rain than that from the transit of the ITC. The Gradient Wind Analysis Map on the internet showed the ITC lying across the base of the Top End at 0930 hrs. Evidently we were experiencing a very weak monsoon burst. There was a storm from the North East at about 1600 hrs. There was quite a bit of rain and then an overcast sky. The Full Moon occurred at 1951 hrs CST. It was quite spectacular when it rose but there was no sight of it later on in the overcast sky. There were cooling downdrafts, and a beautiful night followed. This was another big Full Moon Rain.
Monday 31 December 2012 New Years Eve
40 mm of rain had accumulated in the gauge to 0900 hrs on this day. I visited Jimol with a friend to repair the diversion blocks and other anti-erosion structures on the driveway. Whilst we were doing that we were visited by a band of Babbler Birds. I am used to them visiting just once for a period of about 3 days in every year. We did not realise it at the time but on this occasion they had arrived for a much longer visit.
In the afternoon I look some Fountain Vine seeds ( Opilia amentacea ) to Alawa and spread them around and about the neighbourhood. In the late afternoon Dan took a photograph of me. I quite like it and I think that I will use it as my ‘recent photograph’ in 2013. There was a gathering in the house in Alawa Circuit to see the New Year in, and that is where I celebrated the event.
And that my friends was how the year ended for me.
Copyright Strider Humpty Doo 2013 2013-04-06

Monday, March 25, 2013

How the environment centres came to be

How the environment centres came to be
My own education about all things ecological really began when my mother became a schoolteacher and took out a subscription to the monthly UNESCO Courier. I enjoyed the magazine very much. My mother usually cut it up for use in the classroom and I took out my own subscription to it at about the time that I began to go to High School. I am grateful to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for the education that I had from the UNESCO Courier 1956 to 1960. The UNESCO Courier covered a wide range of ecological subjects including the human population explosion.
Prior to the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1973 it was UNESCO that dealt with ecological matters for the United Nations Organization. Two of the institutions that it created to perform that work were The International Biological Program (IBP), a world wide ecosystem stocktaking exercise, and the Scientific Committee for the study of problems of the Environment (SCOPE) which continues in operation to the present day. The operation that formed the bridge to the creation of UNEP was the UNESCO ‘Man and the Biosphere’ program (MAB).
People need to know that the UNESCO web site is a major resource on ecological topics and that it is not searched by Google. UNESCO is still active on ecological matters. The recent Symposium on ecologically sustainable agriculture in Beijing is an example. Serious conservationists should be paying attention to what UNESCO is up to.
In 1972 the United Nations Organisation hosted an international conference in Stockholm. It was called ‘Only one Earth’ and the topic up for discussion at the conference was the need for international cooperation on ecological issues.
The conference identified a need for a specialist United Nations agency to support international action on ecological issues. The new agency was called the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). It set up its head office in Nairobi and held its first meeting in 1973.
Prior to 1972 there was an ‘ecology movement’ in Australia. In 1973 there were ‘conservationists’ and ‘environmentalists’. Since 1973 less and less has been heard of the word ‘ecology’.
I was amazed by that linguistic take over in 1973 and bewildered as to where the word ‘environmentalist’ came from. It certainly did not come from within the ecology movement or the pre-existing nature conservation movement. On reflection I have come to the conclusion that the adoption of the word ‘environment’ was due to the use of the word environment at the Stockholm conference and in the title of the United Nations Environment Program.
There was an important event in Australian politics in 1972 that also had a bearing on the name changes. It was the ‘Its Time’ election when the ALP under Goff Whitlam won government after a generation or so of government by the Liberal/Country Party Coalition.
This program advanced by the ALP at the 1972 election owed a great deal, in an intellectual sense, to the leadership provided by the international students rebellion in the northern hemisphere summer of 1968, and the next few following years. It was the first political program in Australia to take the ecological dimension of reality seriously. It also dealt in a serious way with quality of life as an issue. There was something in the spirit of the times in 1972 that brought the ecological crisis to the attention of the community as a whole.
People like myself who were active in the ecology movement suddenly realised that we also had to think about the social and political dimensions of human life. It was not a welcome discovery.
The people and institutions involved with the social and political dimensions of human life suddenly realised that they also had to think about the ecological (or as they would say the ‘environmental’ dimensions) of human life. It was not a welcome discovery.
A strange sort of a shotgun marriage resulted as the ecologists looked for some social and political talent to help with the task, and the socialists and so on looked for some ecologists to help them with the task as they perceived it. The perceptions of the task were very different, depending on where people set out from. Different enough for the 1973 verbal formula ‘conservationists and environmentalists’ to be a useful description that identified a real social conflict. A conflict that was not widely identified or understood at the time.
The most obvious feature of this merging of political forces was the fact that the social-activist forces outnumbered the ecological-activist forces by ten to one, or even a hundred to one in some places. With the zeal of the convert, social activist types dominated committees and took control of printing presses. The developed ‘ecological understanding’ of affairs was submerged and diluted in the new ‘environment movement’. There was no provision made for ‘in service training’. People from the ecological side of the merger were aware of the conflict, most of the people from the social and political side were not aware of the conflict.
Somebody described it as a conflict between the ‘deep’ ecologist and the ‘shallow’ reform - environmentalist.
This was the situation in August of 1973 when the United Nations Environment Program sat down to its first meeting in Nairobi.
At this meeting the governments of the world agreed to establish a world wide non-government communications system to support citizen action on ecological issues. The system was to consist of an ‘environment centre’ in every capital city and ‘the Environment Liaison Centre’ in Nairobi over the road from the UNEP headquarters.
In the Northern Territory in 1973 there was an organization called The Environment Council of the Northern Territory. It was a forum for discussion among organisations with an interest in ecology and nature conservation matters. Member bodies included the Chamber of Commerce and the National Trust as well as the Darwin Conservation Society. Membership was not open to individuals. Secretariat services were provided to the Council by the Keep Australia Beautiful Council, which had a paid Executive Officer and an office in the Town Hall. Meetings of the
Environment Council took place in the Town Hall. Meetings took place every week and there were in effect two classes of members, those who attended almost every meeting and those that almost never attended a meeting.
Somewhat similar ‘peak body’ organizations existed in other Australian States and Territories but there was no national peak body. The only national conservation forum and information clearing house operation was provided, in a somewhat indirect fashion, by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). It was the Council meetings of the ACF that provided the main national forum.
One of the problems faced by the brand new Department of the Environment in the Commonwealth Government was the fact that several of the existing state and territory peak environment groups were not incorporated associations, and public money could not be given to un-incorporated associations.
The Department asked ACF to help it. The deal that was offered to the peak bodies was some public funding in return for the peak body establishing an ‘Environment Centre’ in the capital city and the peak body becoming an incorporated association. During the start up period the Department paid the seed money to ACF and ACF distributed it to the unincorporated peak bodies. I have a vague memory of flying to Darwin with the cheque in my pocket, to attend the meeting of the Environment Council (NT) at which the formal motions were passed that set process of incorporation in train. I was a member of the ACF Council at the time.
The general idea of the environment centres that were set up in 1974 was that they would provide support services to local activists and cooperate with other environment centres and the Environment Liaison Centre (ELC) in Nairobi to create a worldwide information clearinghouse operation. The environment centres were to be open to the public and house a common filing system as a sort of collective memory for the community.
Barbara James was employed to coordinate the operations of the new environment centre in Darwin; and her personal filing system on all things ecological was donated to the centre to kick-start its filing system. Before the centre had completed its first year of operations Cyclone Tracy destroyed the city and completely disrupted all of the normal capital city functions in Darwin.
The impact of Cyclone Tracy on the environment movement in the Northern Territory was grievous. There was a very big population turnover after the event. Before the cyclone the residents of Darwin were very well informed about such matters as the city sewerage system and the ecology of Port Darwin. That knowledge was lost.
Before the cyclone there were extensive social networks and quite a few very active small action groups. All of this was blown away by the cyclone. After the cyclone we lived in ‘The New Darwin’. It was a dis-organised place.
Barbara James at the Environment Centre became the only conservationist in town, by default. In organisational terms the periphery blew away leaving a centre with no one to serve. This was a disaster in its own right.
One consistent aspect of the emerging green consciousness was a faith in small scale and de-centralised operations. It did make logical sense to have a global network of Environment Centres to conduct the main information clearing house function for such a small scale and decentralised network. The radical centralisation found in The New Darwin was something else again, and it proved to be very difficult to reverse it.
There were some other aspects of the situation that didn’t please me. Most of the centre to centre communications from the Darwin Environment Centre were with other centres in Australia. There was very little communication with environment centres elsewhere in the monsoon tropics. This always seemed perverse to me.
From 1975 to 1979 yet another emergency occupied the Board of Management of the Environment Centre in Darwin. It was the campaign to oppose : the use of atomic power to generate electricity and the mining of uranium at Jabiru. The Darwin Environment Centre did play an important Australian national coordinating role in that campaign. The steam went out of the campaign after the Commonwealth Government (under Malcolm Fraser) decided to permit mining at Ranger in 1978.
The Fraser Government was hostile to the Environment Centres. It attacked them by changing the funding formula. The original deal was a subsidy of $1 of public money for every $1 raised by the environment centres. The Fraser Government made it $1 for every $2 raised by the environment centres. This action forced the closure of the Environment Centre in Darwin, 18 April 1982.


STRIDERS ALMANAC – the Express edition
Volume 1, Part 4, 25 March 2013. Page 1
Part 4 Very hot with many storms but very little rain
21 November to 10 December 2012, a period of 20 days.
Wednesday 21 November
I began to prepare for my return to Solar Village. I took water and fertiliser to the trees that we had planted over the previous few days.
The emphasis in the previous few days had been on finding, digging up and relocating, some young Australian Nutmeg trees ( Myristica insipida ).In the first instance it was our intention to gather them into places that are relatively well protected from fire. You could call that the genetic salvage aspect of the operation.
Nutmeg trees are a very important element in the habitat of the Nutmeg Pigeon ( Ducula spilorrhoa )as both a food source and a tree to roost in overnight. As we understand it the pigeons provide a vital ecosystem service to the local forests as a seed distributing agent. Our actions are intended to help support the pigeon population. We expect that the pigeons will deliver the seeds of many plants to the soil under these trees that we are planting. This new seedling source will enable us to transplant some of the seedlings to other parts of the forest. Our intention is increase the biodiversity in this very badly damaged plant community. Many tree and shrub species have been lost from most places in the community in the last 140 years because of poor fire management. This has seriously reduced the amount of fruit available to Emus and many other animals.
We imagine that we are cooperating with the pigeons to go some way towards restoring the original biodiversity of these very denuded and impoverished ecosystems. We are attempting to make ecosystem repairs in this way. It is an emergency repair project in a very sick landscape. I think of it as a sort of an ecosystem first aid and nursing project.
Thursday 22 November
I noticed the very first flowers for the season on the big flood plain lily ( Crinum asiaticum ), the one that has many flowers held aloft on a single stem. I think that this is an important indicator of conditions in the flood plain, and a sign of the times in every sense of that expression. This is another species that follows different flowering timetables at Wrigley Creek and Solar Village.
Friday 23 November
There was very big storm at (and before) dawn. It was a morning terminator storm. This one had red lightning. Electrical discharges in air are white, but electrical discharges in Nitrogen are red. Storms with red lightning are very tall storms, and I call them ‘red dragon storms’. I don’t think that I noticed even one red dragon storm in the 2010 – 2011 wet season. Very little rain fell from this storm at Wrigley Creek but more rain fell a bit later on in the morning.
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A cool and overcast day followed. I travelled home to the Solar Village and found 66 mm of rain in the gauge there. I do not know when it fell. It fell somewhere between 30 September and 23 November. The Bureau of Meteorology rainfall record for Middle Point (Humpty Doo) does not show any significant fall of rain at all in this period. A friend at Lakewood tells me that he recorded 50 mm or rain on Thursday 8 November. He strongly suggested that the whole 66 mm at Solar Village fell from the thunderstorm on that day. That would be only one rain day in a period of 23 days. And that would be very dry indeed for this time of the year, in this part of the world. I would suggest that the growing season was suspended at Solar Village for lack of follow up rain, from about 15 November.
Saturday 24 November
It was 23 degrees C in the room at 0600 hrs. Mid-day cloudiness developed and it was very humid. The afternoon was very dim and there were many thunderstorms about. It was so dark that it seemed as if the Sun was about to set, all afternoon. We called afternoons like this “long afternoons” when I lived at Camp Concern. According to my notes this was the first long afternoon for the season.
I noticed the beautiful little Ixora tree ( Ixora tomentosa ) in flower on this day. The white Ixora flowers in a long dark afternoon is a vivid seasonal image. It was a memorable sight. It did rain during this long afternoon.
Sunday 25 November
There was 32 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. It was rain from the previous day. There was no rain at this place on the 25th. A fairly light mid-day cloudiness did develop. I went to Darwin to do some visiting. This was probably the first substantial rain since the 55 mm on Thursday 8 November. I presume that the growing season resumed after this rain after being out of action for maybe a week or so.
Monday 26 November
Whilst I was in Darwin I saw a possum and lots of birds feeding in a particularly fruitful White Berry Bush tree ( Flueggea virosa ). Yes this one was big enough to call it a tree. It is amazing what protection from fire , a bit of water and a bit of fertiliser can do. This tree really did have a very heavy crop of fruit.
I was very surprised to find that there were no mozzies at all (when I slept on the floor at ground level with the door open) overnight 25-26 November in Rapid Creek, and really quite close to the Mangrove forest. We had a most phenomenal holiday from the mozzies in the late dry season and Spring of 2012.
Tuesday 27 November
It was a hot and sunny day with some clouds. I heard thunder in the distance. There were a few scattered thunderstorms in sight to the South of Solar Village. There were no cooling downdrafts here on that day and we had a warm to hot night.
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Wednesday 28 November
The day was overcast and warm. There was a thunderstorm very nearby to the North at 1400 hrs. It eventually moved away to the S.W. There was very little rain here and a warm night followed. That isolated thunderstorm was all that we got by way of a Full Moon Rain. I don’t think that it was very significant in that way.
Thursday 29 November
The Full Moon occurred at 0016 hrs CST. Two plants came into full flower at the time of this Full Moon. They were the Grey Bloodwood ( Corymbia porrecta ) and the Vitex Bush ( Vitex trifolia ). It was also the first day of flowering for the season for these species at Solar Village.
There was a storm nearby to the North at 0530 hrs, a morning terminator storm. A sunny day, but also a very cloudy day, followed. The mozzies returned, and that was the end of our long holiday from them. I spent most of the day at the annual Natural Resource Management Board Conference in Darwin.
Friday 30 November
It was a much less cloudy day with afternoon showers and a bit of point drizzle at times. The storms missed the Solar Village and there was no cooling downdraft there on this day. I noticed some beetles hard at work demolishing the leaves on a few little Breynia trees ( Breynia cernua ) near Starshine on this day. They did completely defoliate them.
The night began very hot. When I went to bed it was to lie naked on a towel on top of the bed. I went to bed quite early. I felt hot, on top of the bed. The sky was clear and the night did cool down eventually.
Saturday 1 December
At 0500 hrs the temperature in the room was 24 degrees C. Around dawn, geese were flying around in small groups and calling as they flew. The mozzies were, noticeable. One well resonated Green Tree Frog had called at 0420 hrs and there was a froggy dawn chorus at 0457 hrs with the bird song. At dawn there was a cloud bank low down on the E. horizon. As time went by it moved over us and the sky became very cloudy. At 0834 hrs it was overcast. The sky was full of tightly packed cumulus clouds that were just a bit too high up to suggest rain. By 0855 hrs the cloud had evaporated and the Sun was shining in a very hazy sky.
The soil surface was quite dry on this day. The only visible moisture was that in the worm castings. It really is pretty unusual for the soil surface to be dry at the start of December. The days would not be getting as hot as they are, if the soil surface was moist or wet.
New cumulus cloud began to form at 1013 hrs and a light E. breeze began to blow. By 1040 hrs there was 6/8 cloud cover with cumulus cloud blowing over slowly from the E.S.E., and a cooling E. breeze on the ground.
At 1109 hrs the clouds were much bigger and they were blowing over from the N.E.. A light breeze from the N.W. (i.e. up the creek and very probably the start of the sea breeze ) arrived here at 1109
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Hrs. By 1215 hrs there were brief light showers of rain about, and there were lots of little cumulus castellatus clouds. The storms in the mid-afternoon were blowing over from the E.. There were isolated thunderstorms in the late afternoon. I went to bed at 1940 hrs when the temperature in the room was 26 degrees C. Evidently there had been some cooling downdrafts with the afternoon storms. There was a little rain. Maybe 1 mm.
Sunday 2 December
At 0220 hrs the temperature in the room was 24.5 degrees C, the sky was overcast and thunder could be heard. At 0300 hrs on the verandah the temperature was 23.5 degrees C and at 0600 hrs that was the temperature in the room too. A very cool night indeed, with cooling downdrafts from a storm. Another 1 mm or so of rain fell. At 0900 hrs there was 2 mm of rain in the gauge. A very hot and sunny day followed. I drove through rain on my way to Darwin that night.
Monday 3 December
It was another very hot day with isolated thunderstorms in the late afternoon. I arrived home at 2230 hrs to find that it had just stopped raining. A truly beautiful night followed.
Tuesday 4 December
There was 11 mm of rain in the gauge at 0700 hrs. At 0900 hrs a light N. Breeze arrived and a little later the wind went around to the W.. There was mid-day cloudiness and it was a hot day. At 2230 hrs the temperature in the room was 26.5 degrees C.
Wednesday 5 December
At 0440 hrs the temperature was 25.5 degrees C. It was overcast and very hot and humid after dawn. At 0936 hrs the first faint breeze arrived from the E. and at 1230 hrs a sea breeze arrived from the N.. Mid-day cloudiness did not develop. In the early afternoon the temperature reached 36.5 degrees C..
Two storms went up very quickly at 1550 hrs. One from the ‘Thor’ location and one to the E.N.E. of Solar Village. ‘ Simultaneous paired storms’. Are these the two storms that are mentioned in the folklore ? I think that they may indeed have been those storms. Rain began to fall at Starshine at 1713 hrs and the temperature was down to 26.5 degrees by 1747 hrs. There was a lot of lightning and thunder with this storm. We only got 9 mm of rain from the very edge of the storm from the Thor locality.
A very squally thunderstorm with some very strong winds arrived at Sunset time. This storm brought down a lot of firewood, and blew a few trees over. It was a proper kindling wood harvesting storm. After the rain ended the wind was from the N..
Thursday 6 December
In the morning the wind was from the South. From the inland and the continental air mass. There was 17 mm of rain in the gauge at 0900 hrs. It was a humid day, and another very hot day. There was only a very little small cloud. In Darwin they experienced the hottest December day for 36 years. This was attributed to the wind coming from central Australia. The temperature reached 36.5 degrees C at Solar Village.
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I went out of my way to sleep under a ceiling fan overnight 6-7 December. It was a very hot night. In Darwin it was the hottest December night for 36 years.
Friday 7 December
In Darwin they recorded 29 degrees C with 80% relative humidity at 0500 hrs on this day.
It was a very hot and sweaty day here. The temperature reached 36 degrees C at Starshine. A big storm developed to the North in the afternoon and moved away towards Darwin.
I departed from Noonamah at 1744 hrs and drove South to Wrigley Creek. I drove over 4 wet rain storm tracks to get there. There had been 14 mm of rain there and the dam was almost full. There were isolated thunderstorms about and 2 of them brought cooling downdrafts and a little more rain at Wrigley Creek. One of the storms was a very big one from the S.S.E. and it delivered some very strong wind gusts.
Excellent sleeping weather followed with a breeze. A breeze from the North. It was a most unusual night. The breeze was quite strong at times.
Saturday 8 December
At Wrigley Creek it was 26 degrees C and overcast at 0600 hrs. The sky soon cleared to give us another hot and sunny day. The day was devoted to planting native fruit trees at the Eclipse Party Yam Garden. I also sowed some Red Apple tree seeds ( Szyzigium suborbicfulare ) on Bloodwood Ridge, high up in the Bird Tree Creek catchment area. It was very hot and we had a lovely picnic in the shade at the Yam Garden in the early afternoon.
Shortly after dark there was a violent thunder squall that brought big tree limbs, and some whole trees , down as well as a rain of smaller firewood and kindling twigs. Another firewood harvest storm. A second thunderstorm arrived soon after the first one. About 20 mm of rain fell and the dam overflowed. Another cool night followed.
Sunday 9 December
It was a bit chilly before dawn but it reached 34 degrees C later on in the day. The tree planting continued and I sowed more Red Apple tree seeds along Banyan Creek.
Monday 10 December
At 0600 hrs the temperature (inside the room) at Wrigley Creek was 24.5 degrees C. I got away early and drove to Raki via the Rum Jungle Creek South Uranium Mine. I finally got home to Starshine in the afternoon. I arrived as it began to rain there. 13 mm of rain fell, and it was the first rain to fall there since I emptied the gauge at 0900 hrs on Thursday 6 December. This was another very hot day followed by a very warm night. I spent it under a ceiling fan in Darwin.
It was a very dry period. It seems that the only significant falls of rain at Solar village were ; 66 mm on 8 November (before the period under review began) and then ; 32 mm on the long dark afternoon of the 24th of November, the 17 mm on 6 December and the 13 mm on the 10th. This
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Really isn’t very much rain at all for a period of 20 days at this time of the year.
Everybody agreed that it really was very hot. Most geography books say that the maximum heating of the Earth’s surface by the Sun lags 4 to 6 weeks behind the transit of the Sub Solar Point. The very hot night that I recorded on 30 November was near enough 5 weeks after the transit, and the hottest night for 36 years in Darwin on 6 December was near enough 6 weeks after the transit. I suspect that the 2 firewood harvesting storms ( on the 5th and the 8thof December ) were also related to the transit of the actual heat equator over our Latitude.
I am very curious about the matched pair of storms that went up so very suddenly on the afternoon of Wednesday 5 December. There was ‘something’ about them. A sign of the times ?
Mid-day cloudiness was noted on 4 days. One day in 5 on average. Cooling downdrafts were noted on 8 days. Shall we call that 4 days out of every 10 ? That was a real blessing. There were hot nights, but it could have been worse. The soil was dry, and the growing season stalled. Many seedlings and young trees died at this time.
These are a few of the things that I overlooked.
28 November. The Geebungs ( Persoonia falcata ) were in heavy fruit.
2 December. The Black Currant trees ( Antidesma ghaesembilla ) were in heavy fruit.
8 December. I saw new Ironwood tree seedlings ( Erythrophleum chlorostachys ) in very sandy soil on Banyan Creek.
10 December. The Bush Potato ( Eriosema chinense )was in full flower at Lakewood.
And that my friends will just have to do for today, for the Express edition.
Copyright Strider, Humpty Doo, 2013. (first draft 26 March 2013)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Volume 1 Part 3

STRIDERS ALMANAC – The ExpressEdition
Volume 1, Part 3, 18 March 2013. Page 1
Part 3 Very hot with some cooling downdrafts
1 to 20 November . A period of 20 days.
I was an inpatient at Royal Darwin Hospital from 31 October to 8 November. There were 2 thunderstorms there in the period 1 – 8 November.
Thursday 8 November
I was discharged from hospital and a friend drove me to Wrigley Creek for a period of convalescence. Wrigley Creek is about 70 Kms South of my home at Solar Village, as the crow flys. It is right up at the top of the Adelaide River catchment area and it is not in the same bioregion as Solar Village. It is in the bioregion next door. I visit Wrigley Creek fairly often and these visits help me keep events at Solar Village in a wider regional context. Quite familiar plants (such as the Fern Leaved Grevillia Grevillia pteridifolia ) follow different flowering and fruiting timetables at Wrigley Creek and Solar Village. Because I was not at home at Solar Village 8-22 November 2012 I intend to report some of the events that I noted at Wrigley Creek during that time span. Hopefully this will convey some idea of what was probably going on at Solar Village at this time.
We arrived at Wrigley Creek late in the afternoon of the 8th. We arrived to a cool green world just minutes after 28 mm of rain had fallen. The rain filled the dam on Bird Tree Creek but it stopped just short of overflowing it. This rain caused the germination of a number of Canarium tree ( Canarium australianum ) seedlings. The first such germination for the season. I noticed the first of the seedlings to emerge from the very sandy soil (and in shady places) on the morning of 12 November.
Wednesday 14 November
There was a total eclipse of the Sun just a little distance away to the East of us on this day. We only saw a partial eclipse at Wrigley Creek. On the hilltop from which we watched the eclipse there is a young Milkwood tree ( Alstonia actinophylla) .
This tree had been leafless for some time, and we were afraid that it might have died. It re-leafed on the morning of the 14th.
Friday 16 November
There was a thunderstorm with cooling downdrafts (but very little rain) in the very late afternoon. As we hurried to shelter from the rain we noticed the first ripe fruit on the young female Australian Nutmeg tree (Myristica insipida) that was planted on the Nutmeg Terrace about 5 years ago. This discovery caused great excitement in the camp.
Enough cold air came down from that storm to give us the gift of a cool night and beautiful sleeping weather. The previous cool night had been the night 8-9 November. So at this stage of the game we
STRIDERS ALMANAC – The Express Edition, Volume 1, Part 3. Page 2
were getting one cool night a week.
At Solar Village in October 2012 I had noticed that the cloudy day of the week was Thursday. And if it rained at all, it rained on Sunday. A regular and quite distinct weekly pattern in the weather can be detected here at some times. That is why I am putting the day of the week into the sub-headings in this account of the weather.
Saturday 17 November 2012
A thunderstorm delivered 28 mm of rain in the very late afternoon. Bird Tree Creek ran and the dam overflowed. Wrigley Creek itself rose and it roared in the night. The storm cooled everything down and another beautiful night followed.
Sunday 18 November
It was a cool and overcast day, and that in itself was something of a new seasonal development. We spent the day planting, transplanting and potting up young trees.
During the 20 day long period (1-20 November) I recorded the passing of 2 storms in Darwin (in the first week) and storms at Wrigley Creek on the 8th, 16th and 17th. So in my travels rain fell on 5 out of the 20 days in this period.
The Starting Point
I have over the years played and experimented with many different ideas about when to start the description of the cycle of the seasons. For quite a long time I experimented with using the middle of August (Australian Valentines Day) when the song birds begin to call before dawn to proclaim their territories and their sexual needs. There is something to be said for using 14, 15, 19 or 20 August as a starting point. The beginning of Spring is an obvious starting point.
My current thinking on this topic is that 18, 19, or 20 November is a better starting point for we human beings. For some reason (which escapes me) many people who live in and near Darwin experience a sense of ‘newness’ or ‘arrival’ at this time of year, in every year.
I had already decided to gather my observations together into approximately 10 day periods as a matter of convenience. Early-month 1-10, Mid-month 11-20, and Late-month 21 to 28, 29, 30 or 31, as the case may be. This scheme gives me 36 observation periods in each year.
So on my current thinking I am adopting 21 November as the nominal starting date for the cycle of the seasons and the human cultural year here. I expect that I will experience the sense of ‘arrival’ when I wake up on the morning of the 18th or the 19th, but when all is said and done that is a private experience. I think that it would be appropriate to defer any collective social celebration of these private events for a few days. It is in that spirit that I want to identify 20 November as a sort of a New Years Eve here, and a sort of an end to year that has just passed, if you will.
STRIDERS ALMANAC – The Express Edition, Volume 1, Part 3. Page 3
The Cooling Downdrafts
This is the hottest time of the year. The maximum Sun Temperature (the temperature of a thermometer exposed to direct Sunshine) ever recorded at Darwin was 77 degrees C. , and it was recorded on the 17 November. The Sun Temperature is pretty much the same thing as the soil surface temperature in the Sun where there is no leaf litter on the ground. It is a wonder that any seedlings (or small plants )at all survive the scorching heat that is radiated upwards from the soil surface at this time of year. Good shade, and preferably the solid shade cast by a tree trunk, is pretty much a pre-condition for survival for young trees at this time of the year. It is hotter in burned landscapes than in unburned landscapes, and it is much hotter when the surface soil is dry than when it is moist or wet. The heat radiated upwards from the soil makes life difficult for human beings too at this time of year.
The cooling downdrafts from the thunderstorms are very welcome, and a really cool night is the ultimate luxury. It is hard to get enough sleep, and quality sleep, at this time of the year. On most days it is too hot to have a siesta or sleep in for very long in the morning. It takes special gardening or architectural measures to create an effective well ventilated and shady siesta place. A bough shed, some living creepers, a shady tree or a grass roof; has to be a mile in front of anything with a tin roof.
Lack of sleep is closely associated with insanity and the social tensions of the build-up season. It is hard to get enough sleep when you perk up after the Sun sets, and you want to go hard at night to compensate for the inactivity that is forced on you by the heat in the daylight hours.
The occasional cool and overcast day that allows you to be more active is also a blessing. It can be very hard to do even the minimum of things that really do need to be done, at this time of the year. When it comes to heat and humidity discomfort, we really do live in an extreme place. It is one of the hottest inhabited places on the planet. The hotter ones are deserted. Over the past 100 years the temperature in Darwin has increased by 2 degrees C..The build-up season this year did seem to be a particularly hot one.
And so my friends I am pleased to report that I survived the surgery and the build up, in November of 2012.
Copyright, Strider, Humpty Doo, 18 March 2013. Second draft.