Friday, April 19, 2013
STRIDERS ALMANAC – THE EXPRESS EDITION
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.
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.
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.
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 http://www.hipstrider.com
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 http://www.nature.org/australia 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 ?
MINISTER NERO ATTEMPTS MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, perhaps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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