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Adjusting Seasonal Clocks

In 21st century city life we don't need to worry about seasons. Time is whatever our computer or mobile phone says it is, working hours are flexible, if we want to ski we pick which part of the world snow is currently falling on and the supermarket always has peaches and mangos. Temperature is set automatically by climate control in the car and the office air con. But we generally remember there are four seasons, the main purpose of which is to change fashion wear.

When more people lived in the country, people were more in touch with the varied geographical and ecological cycles across this diverse continent. Before 1788 everyone lived in the 'country' and they were all of aboriginal culture. Seasonal cycles as remembered and passed on from Aboriginal elders produce a far more intricate and subtle overview of Australia’s climate than the 4-season European climate description of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. But even more intriguing are Aboriginal observations which are linked to seasonal expectations in each habitat, some examples of which are:

* Flying foxes move from the inland bush to the rivers during the dry season and nest in the pandanus palm trees. When this happens the onset of rains is imminent. (Yarralin area of the Northern Territory)

* In the dry season, the migratory return of the brolga means that the river catfish will again become active, which in turn means that the river will soon fill with the return of the rains. (Yarralin area of the Northern Territory)

* White breasted wood swallows are only found together with mudlarks for two short periods each year. These occasions signal the beginnings of the wet and dry seasons. (Northeast Arnhem Land area)

* The flowering of the rough barked gum and the bunch spear grass is a sign that the winds will soon blow from the southeast and the Dry Season will arrive. (Kakadu area)

* The appearance of the plover is associated with the onset of rain over many areas of central Australia. (Southwest Simpson Desert area)

If you wish to find out more about 'Australian' seasons, visit the Bureau of Metorology's website at http://www.bom.gov.au/iwk/index.shtml

Posted Sunday, 2 April 2006

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