Tag:

El Nino

January 1, 2005 /
A Change in the Weather
A Change in the Weather

We live between weather and climate – between the daily experience of nature and our attempts to discern the patterns and regularities that define an Australian climate. In this land of extremes, where climatic variability is the norm, we are constantly challenged by the experience of change. Read MoreA Change in the Weather

July 3, 2001 /
forecast: 1 January 1901

The day had been hot, the air hung ‘heavy and dead’; but as evening approached, ‘ominous-looking clouds’ swept over the city, and a thundery change seemed imminent. On this, the last day of the nineteenth century, as Australia prepared to celebrate its birth as a nation, the people of Sydney looked to the weather. ‘The keenest dread is that Proclamation Day will be wet’, the Age reported, ‘“Will it rain?” is the question in everybody’s mouth’.1

The storm broke shortly after 7 o’clock. Fierce winds and heavy rains battered the city’s festive finery, toppling some flags and hoardings, and making ‘rather a sorry sight’ of the buntings. As drizzle continued on into the night, the Government Astronomer, H.C. Russell, offered calm reassurance: ‘Prospects are strongly in favor of fine weather for our natal day’.2

Despite Russell’s confident prediction, 1 January 1901 dawned uncertain. ‘Overhanging clouds and portending thunder’ threatened to mar the procession that was assembling in the Domain. But just before the parade marched off on its triumphant journey towards the inauguration ceremony, the cloud cover began to break. Suddenly, the sun ‘burst forth’, flooding the scene with new colour and life: ‘His beams were never before half so welcome’, remarked the Age. Soon, an ‘invigorating southerly breeze’ arose, rustling the banners and the flags, freshening the air. The weather, it seemed, had succumbed to the sense of occasion. ‘The new nation was awakening’, the Age continued, ‘and with it inanimate nature was springing into renewed beauty and life’.3 Read MoreA climate for a nation

  1. Age, 1 January 1901, p5; Daily Telegraph, 1 January 1901, p. 5. []
  2. Daily Telegraph, 1 January 1901, p. 5; Age, 1 January 1901, p. 6. See also Helen Irving, To constitute a nation: a cultural history of Australia’s constitution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 16-17 []
  3. Age, 2 January 1901, p. 5 []
July 1, 2001 /
the charleville rainmaker

Cloudy skies at last! On 26 September 1902, the drought-wearied residents of Charleville looked to the heavens with new hope. They knew, of course, that clouds offered no certainty of rain; too often before they had watched them drift on, merely taunting with the possibility of relief. But this time the people of Charleville had science on their side. They were going to make it rain.

Stationed around the town were six Stiger Vortex guns, their long, funnel-shaped barrels aimed skywards. At noon the guns were manned, and at the direction of the Mayor, ten shots were ‘fired from each in quick succession’. A few drops of rain fell, but nothing more until two o’clock, when there was a light shower. The drought had not been broken, but it seemed an encouraging start. Perhaps, it was suggested, the prevailing strong winds had ‘interfered with the force of the vortices’.1

Later that afternoon, the experiment was repeated. This time there was no rain. Nothing. Moreover, two of the guns exploded, rendering them unusable. No-one was injured, but the experiment had clearly failed. There would be no more rain. The clouds again moved on, while the would-be rainmakers succumbed to disappointment and recrimination.2 Read MoreThe weather prophets

  1. Brisbane Courier, 27 September 1902, p.5. []
  2. Ibid.; various versions of this story. []