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 http://www.hipstrider.com
All rights reserved.