Human elements

Author’s preprint version

Tim Sherratt, ‘Human elements’, in Tim Sherratt, Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin (editors), A Change in the Weather: Climate and Culture in Australia, National Museum of Australia Press, Canberra, 2005, pp. 1-17.


‘I say emphatically that the climate has changed’, Henry Hodgson told the Argus in 1928. The experience of seventy-eight years brooked no denial, summers were milder, and thunderstorms were fewer. ‘It is no use telling me that weather bureau statistics do not bear this out’, he added defiantly. ‘You can do anything with statistics, but no statistics will convince me that the climate has not changed radically.’1

It’s hard not to have some sympathy for Mr Hodgson, for even as we express our concerns about global warming and educate ourselves about the characteristics of Australia’s variable climate, there remains a nagging feeling that somehow he was right. Think back to the boiling-hot Christmases of your youth, to those long weeks spent at the beach, and answer honestly – do you remember summer as being hotter?

If you do, I have some bad news for you – it means you’re getting old and slow.

The assistant director of the Bureau of Meteorology, W. S. Watt, unsurprisingly rejected Mr Hodgson’s assessment. It was largely a trick of memory, Watt suggested, quoting W. I. Milham’s judgement that such misconceptions were due in part ‘to the fact that the attitude towards life, the amount of energy, and the daily occupations and responsibilities of old people are different from what they were when they were younger’.2

The heat has drained from us, it seems; our thunderstorms have all dried up.

Exchanges such as these occurred regularly across the twentieth century. Bouts of unusually hot or cold weather brought forth claims that the climate was changing, despite persistent denials from the meteorological experts. ‘Almost every person in Melbourne who is not a meteorologist is certain that this is the coldest, wettest, and windiest winter that he remembers’, noted the Argus in 1935.3 But even if, as the Bureau maintained, this was more a matter for psychology than meteorology, such climatic contretemps raise interesting questions about the relationship between memory and statistics, between climate and weather.

Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.4 A detailed knowledge of climate is derived from averages and statistics, expressed most meaningfully in terms of probability.5 What is the chance of rain? Accumulated experience guides our expectations. But more than just the available data, perceptions of climate reflect our broader aspirations – our powers of imagination as well as observation. In 1744, even before its boundaries were known, Dr John Campbell argued that the mysterious Terra Australis was located ‘Precisely in the richest Climates of the World’. It was, he noted, ‘impossible to conceive a Country that promises fairer from its Scituation’ (sic).6 Assessments of Australia’s climate have veered between optimism and anxiety. To some the climate promised health and vigour, to others it meant only hardship. In the early decades of the twentieth century, as David Walker describes, the supposed dangers of a ‘tropical’ climate nagged at the ambitions of White Australia.7 The climate derived from years of observation and abstraction continues to be shaded with climates of opinion and emotion – climates of fear and climates of hope.

Weather, on the other hand, is the shower of rain that catches us unprepared, the gust of wind that whips the fallen leaves about our legs, the unrelenting heat that leaves us drained and irritable. Weather is immediate, local and personal. Weather ‘doesn’t just happen’, argues David Laskin, ‘it happens to us’. Weather is ‘around us and inside us’.8 Weather is the daily experience of nature, it affects the way we feel and the way we act. In its most dramatic moments – in storms, in heatwaves, in cyclones, droughts, or floods – the weather changes lives. Confronted once again by the violence and cruelty of nature, the nation unites in shock and sympathy, politicians mouth familiar promises, and insurance companies dither. The weather becomes a matter for comment and concern, as each event is catalogued and compared – the biggest in fifty years, the worst for a generation, perhaps even a turning point in the nation’s progress. Such events provide markers in the histories of individuals, communities and nations. They serve as points of reference and meaning – they stick in the memory.

Herein may lie an explanation of Mr Hodgson’s (and our own) delusion. In 1950, a long wet and cold spell led many Sydneysiders to conclude that the climate was changing for the worse. John Hogan, deputy director of the Bureau of Meteorology, ventured once more to dispel such fears, and offered a useful simile. ‘Old people who complain about the changing climate, remember only the peak periods’, he explained. ‘Looking back over their lives, these periods of exceptional weather merge together like the telephone posts down a long road.’ As a result, ‘outstanding events’ were mistaken as ‘normal’.9

So not only are we old and slow, but our memory is buggered as well.

But no matter how complete our recollection, climate and memory will never coincide, simply because memory is not an average of the past. Memory is built upon the particular and exceptional. High points and low points may be blunted over time, but they retain their individual significance. Memory generates meaning, not statistics. In a similar way, climate is not just an accumulation of weather. We experience the two differently, our lives lurching constantly between expectation and event, between the idea of climate and the reality of weather. And yet we experience them together, locked in a process of negotiation and transformation – through the weather we know the climate, through the climate we know the weather.

This book aims to explore the cultural space between weather and climate. Sections alternate between the elements of weather – rain, sun and wind – and climatic outlooks that survey limits, patterns, connections and change. The divisions are meant to be suggestive, rather than exclusive, shifting perspective from the individual to the global, from the past to the future – reflecting the process by which weather itself is parlayed into climate and back again. In between each section a series of interludes, featuring collection items from the National Museum of Australia, offer other ways of connecting to the book’s main themes. The interludes illustrate the ‘human elements’, the ways in which Australians have learned to understand their climate, to live with each change in the weather.

a backdrop to history

‘The influence of climate on our history is still largely unstudied’, Geoffrey Blainey observed in 1971. There seemed no doubt, however, that such an influence existed. As Blainey noted, the Australian climate had been ‘a vital determinant of the prosperity and location of the wool industry, dairy farming, and every rural industry ranging from sugar to wheat’. Climate ‘helped to dictate the site and size of cities’, while drought had ‘shaped some of the most dismal eras of our history’.10 Climate had suffered the neglect of historians simply because its effects had been taken for granted. It was too obvious.

Like the environment, the landscape, or nature itself, climate is often imagined as the backdrop against which history is played out. Climate provides colour and context, but it also frames the limits of the drama. Upon its stage, history is enacted through scenes of achievement and failure. Individuals and nations battle the cruelties of climate, or are blessed by its generosity. Some seek conquest, proclaiming that the climate itself must submit to civilisation. Others adapt to its challenges, and are themselves changed. Such sagas are familiar in a settler society like Australia, where progress was expected to be won in an ongoing confrontation with nature. Like the frontier itself, the climate has wrought its own sense of opportunity and anxiety.

The sun, for example, could be a dangerous foe, or a symbol of new life. From the broad-brimmed cabbage tree hat to the familiar, shady verandah, European settlers fashioned means to escape its unfamiliar heat and glare.11 But the Australian sun also offered a new source of light and energy, an escape from the gloom of Britain. In the early twentieth century, as David Walker describes in Chapter 8, ‘climatic patriots’ seized upon the sun as a symbol of Australian vigour and promise. Blessed with abundant sunshine, Australia is still portrayed as a nation whose life is lived out of doors – on the beach, on the farm, on the playing field – even as we grapple with the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.12 Like the early colonists, we have returned to the protection of the broad-brimmed hat. The Prime Minister declares his love of this ‘sunburnt country’ peering out from beneath the ample shade of his Akubra.

‘Droughts and flooding rains’ have wrought a similar mix of threat and self imagining. The vagaries of the global marketplace have combined with the irregular cycle of drought and flood to chart the limits of Australia’s economic ambitions. But the brutal uncertainty of the country’s climatic variations has also provided the background against which the resilient character of its people could be celebrated. C. E. W. Bean, the chronicler of the Anzac legend, argued that the qualities of the Australian fighting man were forged in the battle against the elements. ‘The Australian is always fighting something’, he argued. ‘In the bush it is drought, fires, unbroken horses and cattle.’13 In times of drought we marvel still at the heroic forbearance of the typical rural ‘battler’.14

The wind, as Tom Griffiths reminds us in Chapter 13, has also borne both health and disquiet – the bracing freshness of a virgin land and an unsettling whiff of alien climes beset by desert or ice. It was also the wind that brought settlers, explorers and invaders, swept along by the ‘Roaring Forties’ in a dramatic transition from old world to new. Wind powered the early development of the colonies, providing means of transport and communication without which they could scarcely hope to survive.15 But as European settlement moved north into lower latitudes prowled by tropical cyclones, white Australians also came to know the wind’s destructive power.

The Australian climate has proved both inhospitable and welcoming, rich in its promise and profound in its terrors. It has also been prone to miscalculation, confounding European expectations from the time of the Dutch traders, who misjudged the winds and were blown upon the coast of a seemingly barren land. On the eastern side of the continent, Blainey recounts, Cook and Banks arrived at Botany Bay in the midst of a wet autumn and were impressed by lush meadows and a swiftly flowing stream.16 Their encouraging report strengthened plans for occupation, but when the First Fleet landed they found a dry and difficult land. They had arrived, as Richard Grove explains in Chapter 11, in the midst of one of the most significant El Niño events in recorded history.

A new climate cannot be mapped and comprehended like a new continent. It can only be known through time, through averages and extremes, through experience and expectation. Over the years we have become familiar with the patterns and trends, we know when the frosts come, when the temperature soars, when the winds are at their strongest. But we have also invested these patterns with meanings that cannot be read from the thermometer or rain gauge. Temperature is cross-indexed with race and health, drought provides an indicator of destiny. Our efforts to understand the climate have merged with the imagining of nationhood, with the construction of an Australian identity. Just as the boundary between society and nature is always on the move, so climate and culture create each other across a shifting, permeable frontier. The backdrop is repainted again and again, as each new actor takes the stage. Climate does not simply shape history, for it can only be known through history.

meteorological events

In 1788, as a major El Niño event affected weather across the globe, Australia’s first white settlers watched, with increasing desperation, as their crops withered and streams dried to a trickle. If all efforts to resupply the colony had failed, if the drought had continued a little longer, whose history might we be writing now?

The influence of climate on history is read not only through patterns and perceptions, but also through events. Droughts, floods and storms intervene in our lives, in ways often dramatic and unexpected. They puncture the confidence of our predictions, temper the arrogance of our plans; they fracture relationships, reinforce communities; they provide moments of collective shock, resolve and recrimination; they divide history into periods both ‘before’ and ‘after’. No doubt most of us could, without too much difficulty, begin to compile our own catalogue of events – Cyclone Tracy perhaps, the dust storm that blanketed Melbourne in 1983, the 1999 Sydney hailstorm, the 2003 drought and bushfires?17 And yet, although they seem so easy to identify, such events are not always easy to isolate.

In July 1995, the city of Chicago in the United States suffered under record high temperatures. Day after day the heatwave smouldered on, its effects measured, most tragically, in the hundreds of corpses piled up in refrigerated trucks outside the overwhelmed medical examiner’s office. Over 700 people are estimated to have died as a result of the heat.18 An official investigation described the heatwave as ‘a unique meteorological event’. It was a ‘freakish disaster’, city leaders argued, a brutal whim of nature whose effects could have neither been predicted nor prevented.19 But heat could not alone explain the dimensions of this tragedy. What seemed to be an act of nature was, Eric Klinenberg suggests, ‘a social drama that played out and made visible a series of conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive’.20 Poverty and isolation left many elderly residents vulnerable. Their experience of the heat could not be understood solely through the temperature on a particular day; it was an experience many decades in the making, brought on by government policy, urban development, and a society that seemed to care little for its weakest and most disadvantaged members. The heatwave was a ‘cultural event’ whose conditions did not simply ‘disappear when the temperatures moderated’.21 ‘We have collectively created the conditions that made it possible for so many Chicago residents to die in the summer of 1995’, Klinenberg argues, ‘as well as the conditions that make these deaths so easy to overlook and forget’.22 We are all implicated in such events – the weather does not kill alone.

Meteorological events seem to offer simple lessons in cause and effect. We can track their progress on weather maps and radar screens, we can measure their results with rain gauges and thermometers. Even though a sudden storm might remind us of our vulnerability before nature, it is an event, nonetheless, that comes with its own explanation. The suffering and destruction it wreaks might seem unexpected and unfair, but it is still understandable. Meaning and responsibility are contained within the boundaries of the event. But even as we find comfort in the certainty of markers and maps, our experience of weather refuses to be explained away. As Janet McCalman demonstrates in Chapter 9, heat alone could not account for variations in infant mortality amongst poor immigrant populations in nineteenth-century Melbourne. Women and their babies did not merely suffer the heat of an unfamiliar climate, they suffered the heat of an overcrowded, unventilated slum. They suffered a heat which challenged their understanding of child rearing and health. They suffered a heat whose meaning is to be found both in collective experience and individual life history.

Australia’s emergency management authority estimates that in the last hundred years heatwaves ‘caused more deaths than any other natural hazard (except disease), yet they remain one of the least-studied and most-underrated’ phenomena.23 As Klinenberg notes, heatwaves do not generate the spectacular images of destruction favoured by the media. When the temperature soars, it is images of crowded beaches we see on the news, not the elderly and the poor dying alone. Unlike floods or fires, heatwaves fail to inspire a sense of community concern. They are ‘silent and invisible killers of silenced and invisible people’, rarely figuring in our catalogue of national disasters.24 In 1939, massive bushfires raged across much of south-eastern Australia, culminating in the horror of ‘Black Friday’. Seventy-one people lost their lives. Amidst the grief and recrimination, a Royal Commission was called to investigate the causes of the disaster and prevent its recurrence.25 And yet, in the heatwave that helped fuel the fires, it is estimated that more than 400 people died. These deaths brought no inquiry, no demands for action. The circumstances which claimed their lives were too diffuse to be named, too complex to grab attention. Instead of being remembered as a traumatic moment in the nation’s history, the heatwave and its human toll merely blurred into the flow of time.

Meteorological events have beginnings and ends determined not only by our observations, but also by our systems of classification and measurement, by our values and priorities. Of course, such definitions themselves have a history – their own beginnings, their own ends. In 1896, H. C. Russell, the New South Wales government astronomer, noted that the word ‘drought’ was used differently in Australia from in England. Instead of being defined as ‘a period of a few days or weeks in which not a drop of rain falls’, a drought in Australia was understood as ‘a period of months or years during which little rain falls and the country gets burnt up, grass and water disappear, crops become worthless and sheep and cattle die’.26 A recent survey catalogued 150 definitions of drought worldwide, reflecting the variety of climatic and cultural conditions in which the definitions were framed.27 In Australia, as Russell observed, drought has tended to be defined in an agricultural context. With the nation’s economic health heavily dependent upon its rural industries, drought has loomed, not just as a climatic oddity, but as a serious threat to progress.

Recent years, however, have brought a further shift in the definition of drought that informs government policy.28 No longer is drought regarded as a natural disaster, instead it is accepted as an inevitable characteristic of Australia’s variable climate. It is a risk that the successful farmer must learn to manage. This seems a rather overdue acceptance of the reality of drought, a sign that we are seeking to work more within the limits of our environment, rather than waging war against it. But what does this mean to those struggling with the immediate effects of drought? Is it any less of a disaster to a farmer forced to shoot his stock, to a community steadily drained of its population, to a woman who watches her lovingly-tended garden wither, or to a young child who has never known the land to be green? Like the suffering of an elderly person in Chicago, or an immigrant mother in North Melbourne, the lived experience of drought is not contained within the event itself.

Daniela Stehlik and her colleagues have tried to develop an understanding of drought as a lived experience by interviewing farm families in New South Wales and Queensland afflicted by drought in the early 1990s.29 Their study found that the idea that drought was a recurring phenomenon whose effects could be mitigated by careful management was hardly new to farmers. But even if the principles of risk management were scarcely controversial, the implications of the policy shift added considerably to the emotional burden of farm families. A farmer in need was now portrayed as a ‘bad manager’, proudly independent folk were being lectured on the benefits of self reliance, government policy and the attitudes of urban dwellers seemed to be hardening against the bush. The cumulative effects of political, economic and social change made farm families feel as if they were being abandoned.

Attempting to define drought, one female beef producer commented, ‘It is a long period without rain. It is the stress and the hardship. We had a financial drought … prior to going into the climatic drought’.30 Climate was only one component in the experience of drought which included short-term market fluctuations, long-term economic adjustment, the steady withdrawal of services from rural areas, and the growing fragmentation and dislocation of rural communities. For these families, at this time, the experience of drought was one of increasing isolation.

Even under a risk management regime, uncertainty remains. The vagaries of the global market can wreak havoc upon the most carefully thought out plans. But there is a more fundamental uncertainty at the heart of the drought experience. One New South Wales sheep and wheat producer remarked in an interview:

So to try to manage the ups and downs of not knowing are we really in it, are we facing a really severe drought or is [this] just a dry period? I think that is one of the things we have found hard in this.31

When do you know a drought has started? Another sheep and wheat producer commented:

… the drought just doesn’t change [things] overnight does it? It comes on slowly and the country here has changed [even] in the last three weeks. After that green tinge we had from that rain in February, it is all gone now so it is continually changing and you can’t really pinpoint a period of time I don’t think. It’s not like one day it’s hot and the next day it’s cold. The drought is not like that …32

Droughts are easy to define in retrospect, though it might be noted that the process of drought declaration involves a number of political as well as climatic calculations. But a drought is also made up of a seemingly endless succession of days, each bringing its own weather, each met with a combination of hope, anxiety, resignation and disappointment. Somewhere along the line the disappointments are all gathered up and the word ‘drought’ is uttered. And yet, even then the days continue, each offering still the prospect of change – perhaps it will rain today? The experience of drought is of a thousand hopes dashed, a teetering balance between expectation and despair. Uncertainty becomes a way of life.

the national outlook

Cyclone Tracy was an event that changed lives. In Chapter 14 Bill Bunbury lets us listen to some of the ‘voices on the wind’, to the recollections and reflections of those who lived through the terror. The experience of Darwin residents, he suggests, reflects the cyclic movement of the cyclone itself, with the initial swathe of destruction followed by phases of dispersal and renewal. What was left at the end of the cycle was a new city, full of old and difficult memories.

For the local Larrakia people, as Deborah Rose explains in Chapter 3, the cyclone carried a different meaning. Darwin did not suffer through some arbitrary whim of nature, the cyclone was a strike against those who were reluctant to grant land rights to the Larrakia people: ‘it came to a particular place – Darwin – because that was where the problems were’. Amongst Aboriginal people in the Kimberley, on the other hand, the story of the cyclone is remembered as ‘a warning to keep their knowledge and culture strong’.

Cyclone Tracy had specific, local meanings, but, as Brad West points out, it was also the first cyclone to be ‘interpreted as a national event’.33 While droughts, floods and fires had long found a place in the national mythology, cyclones had previously been accorded only regional significance. The scale of devastation, the involvement of the military, and the dispersal of Darwin residents around the country, all helped to ensure that Cyclone Tracy would be understood differently – as a symbol of the defining battle between nation and nature. Cyclone Tracy joined the landing at Gallipoli as an imagined moment of unity and clarity, calling the supposed characteristics of our national identity to the fore.

Meteorological events can be invested with meanings both personal and political, but they also exist on a geographical scale that positions them locally, regionally and nationally. In his social history of English weather, Vladimir Jankovic describes how meteorology in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was focused on the reportage of unusual local phenomena.34 Descriptions of unexpected or remarkable visitations were reported at scientific gatherings and disseminated through a variety of publications. These eyewitness reports were not merely accounts of the weather, but commentaries on specifically local circumstances infused with ideas about politics, aesthetics and spirituality. By the late eighteenth century, meteorology was beginning to take a more quantitative turn – shifting from colourful descriptions to carefully collected data, from local curiosities to global systems. The ‘meaning of locality changed’, Jankovic argues, from ‘an exclusive end of investigation to a specimen in a larger entity, a point on a grid’.35

This change in emphasis coincided with the European settlement of Australia, challenging the fledgling science with an immense task of coordination. Vast networks of volunteer observers were assembled to gather local data, while new technologies such as the telegraph, radio, radar and aircraft were deployed against barriers of distance and isolation.36 The need for cooperation figured prominently, as meteorologists sought to gather the sprawling continent within the ken of science. By the 1870s, observatories around the country had established an intercolonial framework to aid in the setting of standards and the sharing of information.37 As Australians began to consider the possible benefits of Federation, meteorology offered an example of the efficiencies to be gained through a coordinated national system. At the 1897 Federal Convention, Sir Joseph Abbott successfully argued that the Commonwealth be granted power over meteorological observations to ensure ‘uniformity throughout Australia’. ‘If there is anything which ought to be the subject of a Commonwealth law’, he continued, ‘it is these observations’.38 The study of meteorology was a national obligation.

This theme was elaborated by the Minister for Home Affairs, Littleton Groom, as he introduced legislation to create a federal meteorological department in 1906. National coordination offered improvements in efficiency and accuracy, but also, he noted, the opportunity to extract a broader understanding from fragmented, local experience. ‘Under a Federal system’, Groom continued, ‘we hope to become thoroughly acquainted with the climatic conditions of the continent’.39 Knowledge of the Australian climate would develop alongside the fulfilment of Australian nationhood.40

But what is an ‘Australian climate’? In a continent that ranges from rainforest to desert, from temperate to tropical, we still imagine ourselves as somehow united in an expression of climatological nationalism. Our climate may be something to be celebrated or cursed, but it is still our climate – advertised to the world as the symbol of our distinctiveness. Meanwhile, confidence in the idea of a single ‘Australian identity’ has begun to wane. We have become rightly suspicious of blanket terms such as ‘Australian culture’, seeking instead a more sensitive approach to issues of class, gender and power. What about climate? What fractures and conflicts are obscured by our continued desire to create a sense of unity from a diverse range of meteorological experiences? Is the sun that warms a homeless man in Hobart the same sun that tans a parade of Gold Coast pleasure seekers? Is the wind that lifts the topsoil in western New South Wales the same wind that flutters the flag atop Parliament House?

There are obvious divisions, of course, as cities snipe and skirmish over the quality of each other’s weather. Who has the most ‘liveable’ climate? Whose is the driest or sunniest? Sydneysiders can barely mention Melbourne without passing judgment on the fickleness of its climate, while Queensland claims the sunshine as its own, extolling an idyllic lifestyle where the weather is always ‘perfect’. Within the idea of an Australian climate exist a series of regional stereotypes, deployed in the service of parochial politics and tourism marketing boards.

But there are subtler tensions as well, focused on the continuing significance of locality. Describing the operations of the Weather Bureau in 1922, an article in the Argus likened it to ‘a huge nervous system, having its centre in Melbourne, with its ramifications stretching to all parts of Australia and contiguous countries’.41 The organisation prided itself on being the only weather service in the world to encompass an entire continent. However, this mastery of space had its limitations, particularly when it came to delivering useful and timely information to regional areas. At a conference in 1964, the Bureau admitted the need for greater ‘regionalisation’ of its services.42 ‘The Gippslander feels his needs are not met by a forecast from Melbourne’, noted the meteorological officer in charge of the RAAF station at East Sale. ‘In hill country such as this’, he added, ‘the changes in climate from one valley to another are too great to be covered by general forecasts’.43

This was not just a question of size or scale, however; it was also a matter of where useful knowledge was generated. W. M. Prescott, a dried fruits and citrus grower from Red Cliffs, told the conference how growers had organised themselves into a ‘frost club’.44 With the assistance of the local weather office, club members closely monitored conditions, sending out an alarm when frost seemed likely. ‘Farmers can read the immediate weather signs’, grazier A. R. Johnston remarked, ‘often with surprising accuracy’.45 What was needed from the Bureau, he argued, was a complementary picture of what lay beyond the horizon. Rural producers were not merely seeking detailed regional information, they were looking for ways to integrate their local knowledge and experience within the centralised systems of the meteorological experts.

The shift, that Jankovic observes, in what counted as meteorology, did not mean that older forms of observation and reportage simply stopped. Instead, they were gradually squeezed out of the metropolitan literature. The cataloguing of local phenomena and meanings continued, and continues, but is only deemed to add to science if its methods are standardised and its results collated. Folk wisdom is not tabulated, cautionary tales are not compared. In the new meteorological networks that developed in the nineteenth century, knowledge was generated at a distance; meaning and authority flowed from centre to periphery. But we do not experience weather as simply a scientific phenomenon.46

The stresses of drought, Daniela Stehlik reports, are often exacerbated by the ill- considered advice of outside experts. Perceived as coming ‘from what is effectively a foreign culture’, experts and policy makers offer little respect to local experience.47 It seems they do not come to listen. Scientific expertise is assumed to be concentrated in centres of learning or power. As in the centralised networks of modern meteorology, knowledge is gathered, sorted and tested, before being redistributed as truth. Mere experience is devalued in favour of controlled observation, received truths are displaced by experiment. We accept such changes in the name of progress, while clinging to the belief that there are other ways of knowing – there are truths to be found in place, people and self that cannot be deduced from the canons of science. Into this uneasy truce the weather introduces a daily challenge. Every day we venture out into the world equipped both with forecasts and feelings. To the experts’ predictions we bring our own repertoire of signs, memories, and intuitions. Is the breeze warmer than yesterday? Is that rain I can smell? Meteorologists gather data from around the globe, running it through computer models of great complexity. They watch from space as cloud masses dance and twirl across the continent. All this information is collated and processed to tell us what to expect in our own region, city or suburb. But it does not tell us what to feel – at the end of all these transformations and shifts in scale, the weather remains something immediate and personal.

Even our understanding of the global climate is coloured by local concerns. After surveying residents in Newcastle, Harriet Bulkeley concluded that public understanding of climate change could not be measured solely in terms of the spread of scientific information.48 Just as seventeenth century observers had framed their reports of meteorological phenomena within a broader social commentary, so inhabitants of Newcastle drew upon ‘local knowledges, values and moral responsibilities’ in piecing together their understanding of global environmental concerns.49 Climate change was located within a broader critique of humanity’s interaction with nature, but it was also related to the coal-burning furnaces of the local BHP plant. In a similar way, regional variations in the uptake of solar hot water systems cannot be explained by economics alone. As Ian Lowe comments in Chapter 10, the acceptance of such technologies is dependent upon a number of social and political factors. And so even as Queensland proudly celebrates its sunshine, the state lags behind others in utilising this source of renewable energy.

We are frequently reminded that communications, economics, and culture – perhaps even life itself – are becoming increasingly globalised. National boundaries are giving way to the flow of ideas and money. Weather and climate seem to be following the trend: demanding world attention as never before, uniting nations in concern. As Tony McMichael and Clive Hamilton remind us in Chapters 12 and 16, global warming brings a new perspective to Australia’s understanding of its climate. Questions of national development have to be reframed within the context of global responsibility. In Strange Weather, Andrew Ross argues that the debate about global warming generates ‘contradictions in the way people think about the natural world’: ‘Instead of feeling the weather as we have felt it historically, as part of a shared local, or even national, culture, we are encouraged to think of it globally’.50 Once a symbol of our distinctiveness, the Australian climate now also reminds us of our obligations to the world.

Even the cycle of drought and flood, so central to Australian experience and identity, is now shared with the world through a massive system of ocean-atmosphere interaction. The farmer in Queensland despairing of drought, feeling isolated from sympathy and support, might yet be linked through El Niño to weather events more than an ocean away. From local to global, from feeling to knowing, the experience of weather presents us with dramatic shifts in scale and meaning. Such shifts connect our choice of clothes for the day with the onrolling of immense oceanic currents. A decision about when to plant our backyard tomatoes might reflect the imagined destiny of the nation, while the opening of the ski season could wait upon our decision about whether to drive or walk to work.

strange weather

Weather ‘is the last thing we leave behind’ when we move, David Laskin writes, ‘and the first thing we find when we arrive’.51 As we travel, we carry a sense of ‘our’ weather amongst the baggage of memory and emotion. The weather we grew up with, the weather we know, provides us with a basis for comparison, encouraging us to declare ‘all weather that departs from it strange’.52 Newspaper headlines betray our continuing fascination with ‘strange weather’ or ‘freak weather’ – weather that is unseasonal, unusual or unexpected. Like seventeenth century English observers, we greet such visitations with curiosity, and sometimes alarm. Perhaps, like Mr Hodgson, we read such events as evidence that the climate itself is changing; or maybe they warn of the dangers unleashed through human interference with nature. The statistical analysis of climate may often reveal ‘freak’ occurrences to lie well within the bounds of probability, but their ‘strangeness’ is also measured against our perceptions of history, memory, place and politics. ‘Strange weather’ exists in the gap between weather and climate, between hope and fear, between expectation and event.

For Mr Hodgson, it was the present that was strange. Alienated from his imagined past, uncomfortable with the encroachments of age, he looked to the weather as a sign of what had gone wrong – what he had lost. For Cook, Banks, and those who followed, it was the land that was strange. Carrying the weather of home in their memories and expectations, they found it hard to read the southern skies. To European eyes, Australia seemed a place where all things were ‘queer and opposite’. The seasons were upside down, of course, but they also behaved less predictably. Rainfall could vary dramatically from year to year, particularly in the arid centre. In Chapter 4, Libby Robin explores the way in which assumptions about seasonality influenced understanding of Australia’s desert regions. The experience of the northern hemisphere led naturalists to expect regular, seasonal cycles in the breeding habits of birds. However, the Banded Stilt refused to conform, only breeding when floodwaters create suitable wetlands in the arid zone. Like many other birds and animals, the Banded Stilt had found a way to adapt to Australia’s variable climate. Instead of regularity or seasonality, there was opportunism.

As early as the 1850s, Neville Nicholls notes in Chapter 2, William Stanley Jevons had characterised the Australian climate as ‘one of irregular rains’. But the significance of this observation has been difficult to grasp. While periodic droughts were reluctantly accepted as features of Australian life, the idea that variability of this sort was not an aberration, but a defining characteristic of the climate, seemed to conflict with ideas of natural order and balance. This feeling of unease can be observed in the reception of the well-known ‘Goyder’s Line’. In Chapter 5, Janis Sheldrick describes how George Goyder, surveyor general of South Australia, sought to map the limits of reliable rainfall, which he recognised as crucial to the colony’s agricultural development. Nonetheless, his line has been commonly misunderstood as representing something quite different – average rainfall, rather than its reliability. Averages offer the reassurance that peaks and troughs even out over time; they convey a sense of underlying uniformity. Reliability, on the other hand, provides a measure of doubt.

The meaning of variability was perhaps even harder to comprehend at a time when science seemed destined to reveal nature’s deepest mysteries. Surely Australia’s curious climate was but another puzzle to be solved? As nineteenth-century scientists worked to reduce the complexity of the natural world to a series of fundamental laws, so European Australians began to suppose that their climate’s capricious character might disguise some long-term pattern or regularity.53 A thorough knowledge of these climatic cycles, it was suggested, might allow droughts to be forecast months, if not years, in advance. By the early decades of the twentieth century, the public was entranced, as various schemes for long-range forecasting were offered up by scientists and enthusiastic amateurs. Some believed that sun spots held the key, or perhaps planetary motions. Others canvassed terrestrial influences, arguing that a greater knowledge of Antarctic meteorology was crucial for the development of accurate long-range forecasts. A feature article in the Argus in 1938 argued that the study of both sun spot and Antarctic cycles would allow meteorologists ‘to set a time-table for our weather’, bringing Australia ‘wealth and prosperity in boundless measure’.54

Most celebrated amongst the ranks of Australia’s ‘weather prophets’ was Inigo Jones. For thirty years until his death in 1954, Jones issued long-range forecasts based on a complicated series of cycles linking planetary movements and sun spots.55 His prognostications won a devoted following, particularly amongst pastoralists in Queensland and New South Wales. Through his own experience of drought and flood, Jones claimed he ‘saw clearly the inner meaning of the problem’: ‘something told me that I was called to find the answer’.56 The solar system was, he argued, ‘a vast electro-magnetic machine’.57 Once its cycles were properly understood, weather patterns both past and future would be revealed in their regularity. Within three years, Jones asserted in 1929, ‘correct long range forecasts can be made giving definite areas which will be affected by drought, the period of duration of such drought, as well as giving the definite areas which will benefit by good rainfalls’.58 Weather Bureau officials were less confident in Jones’s abilities, suggesting that he submit a detailed statement of his theories for proper scientific scrutiny. H. A. Hunt admitted that some cycles showed ‘encouraging’ coincidences, but there comes a point, he argued, ‘where the bottom falls out of any theory’.59 The public, he warned, ‘is always at the mercy of any theorist who chooses to quote statistics’.60

The possibility of uncovering the ‘timetable of nature’ tantalised a nation that was largely dependent on its rural industries – no more crop failures, bad seasons could be predicted and planned – but did it also appeal to our sense of rhythm? Since the Renaissance at least, the nature of time, and of existence itself, has been increasingly understood in linear and cumulative terms. The embrace of progress in western societies has dulled our awareness of the natural cycles and rhythms that underlie our onwards journeying. Yet still we find comfort in the return of spring, and stop to gaze at the moon’s familiar faces.

In Chapter 3, Deborah Rose explains how Aboriginal people in the Victoria River District have developed a complex system of environmental cues foretelling the change in seasons. It is a system based not on time or a linear sequence of causation, but on connections, communication and significance.61 There is no norm or average against which conditions can be compared. Instead, difference, absence, variability and patchiness are embraced within a rich array of local messages and meanings. The weather is never strange to those who live with it in country.

Western meteorology, however, has generally preferred causes to correlation. In the 1970s when Neville Nicholls began to examine the involvement of El Niño in Australian droughts, he found the suspicion of cycles and statistics still lingered within the meteorological community. The available evidence was ‘patchy’ and empirical, with limited theoretical understanding of the physical processes involved. Moreover, the very idea that climatic changes could be predicted months ahead seemed at odds with the prevailing orthodoxy. The gradual acceptance of El Niño into the meteorological mainstream has not only brought legitimacy to the field of climate prediction, it has also loosened the grip of theory and modelling over what counts as useful evidence.

Like the planetary cycles of Inigo Jones, the idea of El Niño has been embraced by the public as a sign that drought is not random or arbitrary. There is no ‘timetable of nature’, perhaps, but many serious droughts can be located within a recurring, natural cycle that is, to some extent, predictable. However, El Niño varies in its onset, length and severity. It is not governed by the calendar, nor read from the astronomical charts. It is a cycle that offers the possibility of prediction, even as it commits us to the fundamental variability of the Australian climate. It confronts us with a different kind of certainty, in which only constant monitoring can attune us to the global rhythms of ocean and atmosphere.

As Neville Nicholls notes, the media and the public have been inclined to overestimate the predictive power offered by El Niño. Probabilities are difficult to communicate, and the lure of certainty remains strong.62 Despite the occasional nod to chaos theory, we expect science and technology inevitably to increase our ability to predict and control the natural world. Certainty is assumed to be the most desirable basis for rational planning. Daniel Connell describes in Chapter 7 how even a resource as obviously dependent on climatic variability as water, is fought over by primary producers demanding greater certainty in their allocations. Instead of correlations we seek causes, instead of possibilities we demand predictions. We face the challenges of variability with the expectation of certainty. And the weather continues to seem strange.

change in the weather

The climate of the newly established colony at Port Jackson was ‘changeable beyond any other I ever heard of’, Watkin Tench observed, ‘clouds, storms and sunshine pass in rapid succession’.63 The weather is always changing, of course; the atmosphere is never still. Change seems natural, while unbroken spells of hot or cold weather tax our patience and understanding. At the height of summer, we scan the synoptic charts for the jagged lines that indicate a cold front is on its way – a change is coming, we sigh with relief, perhaps some rain this time. We celebrate the signs that mark the passage from one season to the next. We live our lives amidst shifting winds, varying temperatures and humidity. Change in the weather surrounds us in a way that is familiar and reassuring.

Tench was grappling with change on two fronts. While the weather continued to play its games, the colonists sought to understand and adapt. It was not the changeability of the climate that concerned him so much as the lack of reliable indicators. Without some means of prediction, without experience gained over many years, change seemed arbitrary, whimsical, perhaps even dangerous. Only with a growing knowledge of the climate could European settlers derive an understanding of the limits within which change could operate. We are comfortable with the many changes our weather brings because we have a system of prediction that moulds our expectations to the range of likely outcomes. But what if the reverse were true – if the weather itself could be changed to meet our expectations and desires. As we congratulate ourselves on the gradual acceptance of our continent’s variable climate, we might ask ourselves: would we change it if we could?

Although white Australians reluctantly resigned themselves to the reality of drought, still they wondered whether the climate might somehow be changed for the better.64 With settlement proceeding apace in the mid-nineteenth century, it was optimistically asserted that ‘rain followed the plough’. A series of severe droughts prompted second thoughts, and some proposed that rainfall might actually be improved through the planting of forests. The twentieth century brought many and varied solutions, from the expansive nation-building vistas of the Bradfield Scheme, which planned to modify the climate of Central Australia by diverting water from coastal rivers inland, through to a score of would-be rainmakers targeting recalcitrant clouds with rockets, kites, balloons and guns.65 ‘Still the weather remains unconquered’, the Argus concluded in 1944, after surveying various rainmaking attempts: ‘The grim spectre of drought is one of the few enemies which man can see but cannot destroy … with all his scientific knowledge he is powerless to kill it’.66

But science emerged from the Second World War with a renewed sense of potency, and, as Rod Home describes in Chapter 6, the battle against climate was taken up anew by cloud seeders in the CSIR/O Division of Radiophysics. Richard Casey, the responsible minister, proclaimed that the Australian program was ‘in the forefront of research into weather modification’.67 As the researchers prepared for a large-scale experimental program in the Snowy Mountains, the Sun-Herald wondered, ‘Is this the year of the pay-off?’ If the tests succeeded, the article concluded, ‘then 1957 may go down in history, not as the year of the A-bomb, the H-bomb or the guided missile, but as the year Australia gave rainmaking to the world’.68 A suitable gift from the world’s driest inhabited continent.

Cloud seeding failed to fulfil its promise, though it has its supporters still. Neither has the vision of great nation-building projects faded from the public imagination. Variations of the Bradfield Scheme maintain popular appeal, both as an effort to thwart the menace of drought, and a symbol of national unity and achievement in the mould of the Snowy Scheme.69 In 2002, as Australia suffered the effects of one of the worst droughts on record, media pundits led yet another chorus of ‘turn the rivers inland’. Discussion focused on possible means of ‘drought- proofing’ the country.70

The experience of change raises the question of control. Do we submit to the whims of nature or resist? Do we find ways of adapting our modes of living or do we mount a technological counter-attack? In an era in which even our cars come equipped with ‘climate control’ and the use of air conditioning in our homes continues to spiral upwards, the answers are far from clear. In any case, the ability to effect change does not guarantee the power to control. We now know it’s easy to change the weather, we’ve been doing it for years, perhaps since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. After all the failed rainmaking devices and plans for drought-proofing the continent has come the reluctant acceptance that changing the climate is as simple as flicking on a light switch or driving a car – anyone can do it. Unfortunately, global warming, fuelled by the profligate generation of greenhouse gases, may well bring Australia more droughts, more heatwaves, and more ‘freak’ weather.

However, as Mike Smith reminds us in Chapter 15, climate change is nothing new. For many thousands of years, human beings have adapted to shifts in the climate and conditions of the Australian landmass. Nor, as we have seen, is the idea that the climate might be changing totally unprecedented – Mr Hodgson and his fellow travellers have been issuing their warnings for decades. Why then, as Clive Hamilton asks in Chapter 16, have we been so reluctant to address the implications of global warming? Part of the answer may lie in our experience of time. Both the study of palaeoclimates and Mr Hodgson’s anxieties illustrate the difficulty we have in grappling with change over time. Locating our own meagre spans within the sweep of deep time stretches our powers of imagination, just as the lessons of memory ill fit the analysis of long-term data. We remember our summers as being hotter, and yet we know that they were not. We know that the consequences of our inaction will be borne by future generations, and yet we imagine that they will still have time to spare. We guard the present against the implications of past and future. We cling to denial, Hamilton argues, when what is needed is a change in our values, and our sense of responsibility – a change in the way we think.

The papers in this volume address our experience of weather and climate from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. They invite you to find what is human in the elements and to ponder your own change in the weather.

  1. Argus, 29 December 1928, p. 15. []
  2. Ibid. []
  3. Argus, 3 August 1935, p. 21 []
  4. For this and other descriptions of the difference between weather and climate, see the Bureau of Meteorology’s ‘Learn About Meteorology’ page, online at . []
  5. For a brief discussion of the definition of climate, see W. J. Gibbs, ‘A Perspective of Australian Meteorology, 1939-1978’, Australian Meteorological Magazine, Vol. 30, 1982, p. 13. []
  6. Quoted in T. M. Perry, ‘Climate and Settlement in Australia 1700-1930: Some Theoretical Considerations’, in John Andrews (ed.), Frontiers and Men: A Volume in Memory of Griffith Taylor (1880-1963), F. W. Cheshire, Melbourne, 1966, p. 141. []
  7. For more on concerns about the health effects of tropical climates, see David Walker, ‘Climate, Civilisation and Character in Australia, 1880-1940’, Australian Cultural History, No. 16, 1997/98, pp. 77-95; Warwick Anderson, ‘Geography, Race and Nation: Remapping “Tropical” Australia’, Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol. 11, No. 4, 1997, pp. 457-468; Warwick Anderson, The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2002; Neville Nicholls, ‘A Healthy Climate?’, in Eric K. Webb (ed.), Windows on Meteorology: Australian Perspective, CSIRO, Melbourne, 1997, pp. 105-117. []
  8. David Laskin, Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather, Doubleday, New York, 1996, pp. 3-4. []
  9. Sydney Morning Herald, 1 July 1950, p. 2. []
  10. Geoffrey Blainey, ‘Climate and Australia’s History’, Melbourne Historical Journal, Vol. 10, 1971, pp. 5-9. []
  11. Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, Sun Books, Melbourne, 1983, pp. 143-144. []
  12. Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Health Priority Areas: Report on Cancer Control 1997, Canberra, p. 24. []
  13. Quoted in Richard White, Inventing Australia, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1981, p. 126. []
  14. For more on the role of drought in the formation of national identity, see Brad West and Philip Smith, ‘Drought, Discourse and Durkheim: A Research Note’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, Vol. 32, No. 1, March 1996, pp. 93-102; Brad West and Philip Smith, ‘Natural Disasters and National Identity: Time, Space and Mythology’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, Vol. 33, No. 2, August 1997, pp. 205-215. For more on familiar media representations of drought, see Asa Wahlquist, ‘Media Representations and Public Perceptions of Drought’, in Linda Courtenay Botterill and Melanie Fisher (eds), Beyond Drought: People, Policy and Perspectives, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 2003, pp. 67-86. []
  15. Geoffrey Blainey, The Tyranny of Distance, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, 2001. []
  16. Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, op. cit., pp. 10-12. []
  17. The Bureau of Meteorology has compiled its own catalogue of major climatic events of the twentieth century, ‘Drought, Dust and Deluge – A Century of Climate Extremes in Australia’, online at . []
  18. Eric Klinenberg, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002, pp. 1-11. []
  19. Ibid., p. 15. []
  20. Ibid., p. 11. []
  21. Ibid., pp. 23-24. []
  22. Ibid., p. 11. []
  23. Emergency Management Australia, ‘Heatwaves’, online at . See also ‘Avoiding Summer’s Wave of Heat’, Helix, No. 69, December-January 2000, online at . []
  24. Eric Klinenberg, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster, op. cit., p. 17. []
  25. Tom Griffiths, Forests of Ash: An Environmental History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001, chapter 10. []
  26. Quoted in J. C. Foley, Droughts in Australia: Review of Records from Earliest Years of Settlement to 1955, Bulletin no. 43, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, 1957, p. 4. []
  27. Janette A. Lindesay, ‘Climate and Drought in Australia’, in Linda Courtenay Botterill and Melanie Fisher (eds), Beyond Drought: People, Policy and Perspectives, op. cit. []
  28. Linda Courtenay Botterill, ‘Uncertain Climate: The Recent History of Drought Policy in Australia’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2003, pp. 61-74. Recent changes to drought policy are also discussed in Linda Courtenay Botterill and Melanie Fisher (eds), Beyond Drought: People, Policy and Perspectives, op. cit. []
  29. D. Stehlik, I. Gray and G. Lawrence, Drought in the 1990s: Australian Farm Families’ Experiences, Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra, 1999. See also: Daniela Stehlik, ‘Australian Drought as Lived Experience: Social and Community Impacts’, in Linda Courtenay Botterill and Melanie Fisher (eds), Beyond Drought: People, Policy and Perspectives, op. cit., pp. 87-108; Daniela Stehlik, Andrea Witcomb, Geoffrey Lawrence and Ian Gray, ‘Towards a Social Construction of Drought: A Preliminary Analysis’, in G. Lawrence, K. Lyons and S. Momtaz (eds), Social Change in Rural Australia, Rural Social and Economic Research Centre, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, 1996, pp. 263-275. []
  30. Quoted in D. Stehlik et al., Drought in the 1990s, op. cit., p. 56. []
  31. Ibid. []
  32. Ibid., p. 93. []
  33. Brad West, ‘Mythologising a Natural Disaster in Post-Industrial Australia: The Incorporation of Cyclone Tracy within Australian National Identity’, Journal of Australian Studies, No. 66, 2002, pp. 198-204. []
  34. Vladimir Jankovic, Reading the Skies: A Cultural
    History of English Weather, 1650-1820
    , Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000. []
  35. Ibid., p. 11. []
  36. For more on the development of meteorological networks in general, see J. Gentilli, ‘A History of Meteorological and Climatological Studies in Australia’, University Studies in History, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1967, pp. 54-79. For more on the development of the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, see the Metarch series, available online at . []
  37. R. W. Home and K. T. Livingston, ‘Science and Technology in the Story of Australian Federation: The Case of Meteorology, 1876-1908’, Historical Records of Australian Science, Vol. 10, No. 2, 1994, pp. 109-127. []
  38. Official Report of the Debates of the Australasian Federal Convention, Adelaide 1897, Vol. 3, Sydney, 1986, p. 775. []
  39. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), Vol. 32, 1 August 1906, p. 2141. []
  40. For more on the links between climate and nationhood, see Tim Sherratt, ‘A Climate for a Nation’, in Federation and Meteorology, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, Melbourne, 2001, online at . []
  41. Argus, 22 November 1922, p. 9. []
  42. Quoted in Proceedings of the Productivity Conference, Melbourne, August 31 – September 4, 1964, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, 1964, p. 6. []
  43. Ibid., p. 20. []
  44. W. M. Prescott, ‘The Importance of Weather Forecasts to the Dried Fruits Grower in the Sunraysia Area’, in What is Weather Worth? Papers Presented to Productivity Conference, Melbourne, August 31 – September 4, 1964, Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, 1964, p. 20. []
  45. A. R. Johnston, ‘The Grazier’ in What is Weather Worth?
    Papers Presented to Productivity Conference, Melbourne, August 31 – September 4
    , 1964, op. cit., p. 17. []
  46. For more on continuing tensions between local and centralised weather knowledge, see Andrew Ross, Strange Weather: Culture, Science and Technology in the Age of Limits, Verso, London, 1991, pp. 214-215. []
  47. D. Stehlik et al., Drought in the 1990s, op. cit., p. 19. For more on the power relations embedded in meteorological knowledge, see Andrew Ross, Strange Weather, op. cit., pp. 218-219. []
  48. Harriet Bulkeley, ‘Common Knowledge? Public Understanding of Climate Change in Newcastle, Australia’, Public Understanding of Science, Vol. 9, No. 3, July 2000, pp. 313-333. []
  49. Ibid., p. 313. []
  50. Andrew Ross, Strange Weather, op. cit., p. 221. []
  51. David Laskin, Braving the Elements: The Stormy History of American Weather, op. cit., p. 15. []
  52. Ibid., p. 5. []
  53. Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, op. cit., pp. 350-352;
    Geoffrey Bolton, Spoils and Spoilers – Australians Make Their Environment, 1788-1980, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1981, pp. 28-29; Jenny Keating, The Drought Walked Through: A History of Water Shortage in Victoria, Department of Water Resources, Victoria, Melbourne, 1992, pp. 41-42. []
  54. Argus, 29 October 1938, Weekend Magazine, pp. 8-9. []
  55. For Jones’ own account of his life and work, see Inigo Jones, My ‘Nephelo-Coccygia’, Brisbane, 1953[?]. For more biographical details, see: John Steele, ‘Jones, Inigo Owen (1872-1954)’, in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 9, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1983, p. 515; Lennox Walker, Only an Australian, published by the author, Golden Beach (Queensland), 1996, pp. 193ff. []
  56. Inigo Jones, My ‘Nephelo-Coccygia’, op. cit., p. 5. []
  57. Letter from Jones to Fritz Loewe, 28 January 1949, Fritz Loewe papers, University of Melbourne Archives. []
  58. Letter from Alex S. Mortison (Organiser, Inigo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust) to Captain J. Francis (MHR), 4 December 1929, National Archives of Australia: A1, 1938/3981. []
  59. Argus, 7 April 1923, p. 8. []
  60. Argus, 18 May 1912, p. 19 []
  61. For more on Indigenous weather knowledge, see Eric K. Webb, Windows on Meteorology: Australian Perspective,
    CSIRO, Melbourne, 1997, chapters 1-8. The Bureau of Meteorology has recently established an Indigenous weather knowledge site, online at . []
  62. Neville Nicholls, ‘Cognitive Illusions, Heuristics, and Climate Prediction’, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 80, No. 7, July 1999, pp. 1385-1398. []
  63. Watkin Tench, ‘1788’, in Tim Flannery (ed.), Two Classic Tales of Australian Exploration: 1788 by Watkin Tench; Life and Adventures by John Nicol, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2002, p. 235. []
  64. Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, op. cit., pp. 348-350; Geoffrey Bolton, Spoils and Spoilers – Australians Make Their Environment, op. cit., p. 30; Jenny Keating, The Drought Walked Through: A History of Water Shortage in Australia, op. cit., pp. 39-40. []
  65. Tim Sherratt, ‘The Weather Prophets’, in Federation and Meteorology, Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, Melbourne, 2001, online at . []
  66. Argus, 9 December 1944, Weekend Magazine, p. 2. []
  67. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Hansard),
    House of Representatives, Vol. 6, 31 May 1955, p. 1221. []
  68. Sun-Herald, 12 May 1957, p. 27. []
  69. See, for example: speech by R. L. Chynoweth (Labor
    MP for Dunkley) on the Murray-Darling Basin Bill, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 17 August 1993, p. 51ff; speech by Tony Smith (Liberal MP for Dickson) on Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Bill, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 23 October 1997, p. 9752ff. []
  70. See, for example: Alan Jones, ‘Give Farmers a Hand to Break Awful Cycle’, Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2002, p. 33; ‘Water Figures Large in Nation’s Future’, Courier- Mail, 12 October 2002, p. 24; ‘Appeal to Break Cash Drought’, Australian, 4 October 2002, p. 5. []

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