While the Northern Hemisphere heads for summer (lucky buggers), we here in the antipodes have firmly dropped off the cliff into an early winter season. Although Australia officially recognizes the 4 seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, here in southern Victoria the seasons are less-well defined in practice, and certainly not the clearly-differentiated stages that western Europe and northern North America tend to experience. We have a warm-to-hot dry season during the summer months, and a cold wet winter season, between which are two shoulder seasons whose length varies from year to year, and which are generally punctuated by unstable weather cycles- the collision of cold wet cyclonic systems coming off the Southern Ocean and warm air masses pushed south from the hot desert interior. It’s what gives Victoria its ever-changing weather patterns and its much-bemoaned Four Seasons In One Day reputation.
Across Australia, seasonal variation differs again. In the far north, the climate is primarily monsoon-driven, with a warm-to-hot clear dry-season and a substantial warm wet season. The desert interior sees a continental-dry climate with extreme dry heat in the summer months and a winter season characterised by warm dry days and cold-to-freezing nights.
Of course, Australia doesn’t really fit into western European notions of seasonality- it has its own distinct climate across multiple regions, and it is indigenous Australians’ descriptions of the seasons that often bring far more insightful descriptions. The Kulin people, from the environs of Melbourne, have a seven-season annual calendar based around weather patterns, and animal and plant life visible during that period. It’s made up as follows:
Biderap (Dry) Season (January-February)- Hot and dry with low rainfall
Iuk (Eel) Season (March)- End to hot winds, cooler temperatures. Iuk (eels) are fat and ready to harvest.
Waring (Wombat) Season (April- July)- Misty mornings and cold, rainy days. The wettest and coolest season. Wombats are seen during the day seeking the warmth of sunshine.
Guling (Orchid) Season (August)- Cold weather eases and Guling (orchids) are seen blooming.
Poorneet (Tadpole) Season (September-October)- Temperatures begin to rise but rain continues to fall.
Buath Gurru (Grass Flowering) Season (November)- The weather is warmer but it still often rains. Kangaroo grass flowers.
Kangaroo-Apple Season (December)- Changeable, thundery weather. Fruit appears on Kangaroo-apple bushes.
While the exact timing of those seasons might vary somewhat, any native to the Melbourne area would recognize the broad trends the Kulin identify, and quite frankly make a whole lot more sense than “Autumn: March 1- May 30”. I really like the descriptors- and the way that they’re tied to observations of the natural world- animals, plants, weather and the stars. Something we lack in today’s society is a connection to the natural world that we would do well to re-discover.
This year we barely seemed to have an autumn. We hit Easter and, as so often happens, seemed to drop off a cliff straight into the depths of winter- even though winter isn’t ‘supposed’ to start for another few weeks. Which the Kulin get- we’re in the Waring Season now, and it’ll be like this for a few months yet. Regardless, as we bid a mournful farewell to the warm months of ‘summer’, I thought I’d share a few colourful photos taken during the Biderap Season, when the light was strong and the air warm. And for those of us living on the edge of the Southern Ocean, I hope it brings us a little extra warmth.