Monday, 29 October 2012

I thought Brits were obsessed with the weather-Then there's Queensland

When I learned French at school (as with probably any other language) we are taught how to discuss the weather… yet this conversation never really tranlated to everday use. This I have always accepted as a truely “British” conversation.  
Rain gauge
Now, not often you will hear me refer to us as British, however this is a subject and culture that is common throughout the UK. I mean in pretty much the whole of the UK you could experience all four seasons in one day. Or you  would be able to strike up a conversation with almost any stranger with the following sentence, “What about this weather?” Something that many other nationalities fail to understand... And then we moved to Queensland.
I mean Australia as a continent experiences 4 different climates. Tropical (such as in Nth Qld- where we are), Sub-tropical, Moderate and Cool. This continent has arid desserts, flooded communities and even snow- not just snow, ski resorts. Snow would not being likely here in the Tropics (but we can wish).   

2 of our 3 tanks





The first year at my job, I felt quite left out of the daily morning conversation; as we did not have a rain gauge.  Not only do they discuss the weather, they measure it and compare notes! And it was not just my colleagues, the weather reports repeatedly reiterated how many days it had been since certain places had seen rainfall and they report on dam levels. Now this was something of a foreign concept. But having spent 6 years living in this climate and experiencing weather that I find difficult to explain, I understand and even participate in the daily data collection. And intend to document it though this blog, as it does affect our daily lives. Since we are now solely reliant upon sourcing our own water; as we do not have a mains supply. So our water either comes from  rainfall or bore water .
Bore water is water pumped from the ground through a drilled source- much like a well. Many locals have a preference to either rain water or bore water, some refusing to use either/ or, for their own various reasons. Bore water can be ‘hard’ or have other traits dependent upon the ground from which it’s sourced. Here we are fortunate that our ground has high clay content, therefore the water in soft and well filtered. But as rainfall is a naturally available source, you can understand why we aim to collect it when its available.
Rainfall in the tropics is minimal during the “dry season” maybe 10-20mm each month. Which would equate to 400-800 litres in our tanks. And then there is the “wet season”.  In the UK we experience 4 seasons; Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, in the tropics these are merely a formality, as they have a  have a wet season potentially runs from November til May. Involving high average day (and night time) temperatures, high humidity (sometimes even 100%) and RAIN. The dry season falls over winter, with cooler day (and night) temperatures (that we in the UK would think were summer) and dry, sunny days… and a lot of brown vegetation.

In need to rain- dry season

I do find it strange that most Australians think of the UK as wet, dark and grey. Not understanding that we do (occasionally) have a summer, with nice weather. And that they have more annual rain than we could even comprehend.
Christmas/New Year 2011
Growing up in Wales (one of the wettest parts of the UK) I thought I understood rainfall. However I tried to prepare my family for the rains, prior to their first visit. They came over Christmas (as they are again this year), which is typically the beginning of the wet season. Although it officially begins in November, since  we have been here the rain has begun around Christmas to New year.
These early rainfalls can appear as quickly as they go. One minute there will be clear blue skies, the next can only be compared to having a bucket thrown over your head.  Now many would consider this idea pleasant (ourselves included), at least it was still sunny… how naive.  The rain merely increases the humidity levels, offering no relief from the heat- Ask my mother! And they left before the real wet hit.
February, we have seen constant monsoon rains that last a few weeks straight. Regularly resulting in roads and communities being cut off for days or even weeks. Luckily being on the coast, we generally only see certain routes cut off for short periods (hours rather than days). But the results can still be devastating. 2008 we witnessed an historic flood, that saw many lower lying areas flood (many that had been there for decades and have never been wet). Locals reported rainfall of up to 850mm (that’s almost 3 feet) in 6 hours- from their rain gauges (mine only goes up to 150mm).
More concerning is that this warm, wet weather also bring with it cyclones. So far we have seen 5, of varying strengths. Well there has been far more than that each year, most do not see land fall, or many have crossed along various other parts of the coast. But we have been on alert and seen 5 come and go. Last year being the worst with Ului crossing us directly and Yasi (the biggest storm ever seen- a category 5!) crossing North of us.
These cyclones are systems that build in the warmer waters (feeding off its energy) and a few each year (Australia wide), cross land. Bringing with it high winds, rain and a lot of damage. I believe they are similar to that of the hurricanes experienced in the Northern hemisphere- as with those that cross USA, but cyclones rotate the opposite direction… much like that water going down the drain ;)
So I guess when I say we had rain last night and the gauge read 1mm, this appears insignificant. But I already mentioned that I intend to blog the weather patterns, as this now forms part of our lives and affect how we operate. I’ll try to report on any weekly rainfall or significant events, as I’ll try not to bore you with this information. Such as this week it is predicted that we will have rain until Wednesday. I highly doubt that this will be significant enough to prevent us having to top up the tanks with the bore. So I wouldn’t warrant a daily update, but at this time of year ever little counts and hopefully the garden will look greener for it.