Spring in the Dry Tropics

Spring here in Townsville is so different from Spring in temperate climates that the word sets up all sorts of wrong expectations. Coming out of a cold winter and enjoying the first sunshine for months? Fruit trees bursting into blossom? Sudden wild storms? Everything green and growing? None of the above.

The word needs scare quotes here, or some other warning that it’s nothing like an English Spring, or even a Victorian Spring. I’m going to put it in square brackets: Spring is what Tolkien would recognise, [Spring] is what we get.

We’re well into our Dry season, having had less than 5 mm of rain in the ten weeks since mid-July, and everything is parched and dusty. Many of our native trees drop some or all of their leaves to conserve energy, although some of them (Bat-wing Coral Tree, for instance) do also flower around this time. Exotics like Tabebuia and Poinciana follow the same pattern, so there are always bright spots in our streets and gardens.

townsville from castle hill
Townsville in [Spring], seen from Castle Hill

'autumn' leaves
Not Autumn: [Spring] leaves carpet a dry creek bed on Cape Cleveland
Locals talk about the “mango winds” of September which blow flowers and immature fruit off the trees, and we’ve had them for the last few weeks. The combination of wind and dry grass makes [Spring] our fire season.

It will get worse before it gets better. We can hope for a bit of rain later this month, and more in November and December (see averages here) but Ross Dam levels will continue to creep downwards while temperatures creep up. And then, if all goes well, we will have thunderstorms and downpours with the onset of the Wet, also known as [Summer].

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