On the way home from the trip which took me to the Dalrymple Track and elsewhere I stopped off at Jourama Falls. I didn’t walk up to the falls themselves because I saw from the creek – still flowing, but only just over the camping ground causeways – that the effort would not be well rewarded.
This photo, however, confirms just how dry the country is now.
Townsville is the same, but we know Townsville is in the Dry Tropics; Jourama is not far from Townsville, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that it’s dry; but both are drier than usual, and Cardwell, definitely in the Wet Tropics, was nearly as bad.
A look at recent weather observations on the Bureau of Meteorology’s website has corrected my gut feeling that Townsville had another very dry winter. The total for June-July-August was 30 mm so, paltry though it might seem, it was significantly more than the 18 mm median (see averages here). Here is what we’ve had, according to the BoM.
The main reason I was wrong was that less than 1 mm of the total has fallen since the middle of July. Six weeks of clear skies, increasingly hot days (topping out recently in the low 30s) and no rain has left the city looking desiccated, even though people are still rebuilding their homes and lives after the February floods.
What can we look forward to, then? September is typically our driest month, and October isn’t much better, so no immediate relief is in sight. We might get some useful rain in November but we might also have to wait until Christmas.
We’re well into the Dry season now and the birds come to water whenever they can. These White-gaped Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus unicolor) came to bathe under the sprinkler this morning.
Rain? What’s that? We had a few drops (almost few enough to count individually) a couple of days ago, but before then?
I had to look at the BoM’s records. They show we have had nothing over 0.2mm on any one day all the way back to early July when we had 12.4mm one day and a sprinkling on the days either side of it. June’s total was … wait for it … 2.2mm and in May the total was only 1.8mm. We had 10 mm in April but, really, it stopped raining at the end of March.
Winter arrived yesterday, with its usual suddenness.
As in most years, a big weather pattern somewhere down South pushed cold, dry air from Central Australia out over the ranges to Townsville. Overnight temperatures dropped, and the humidity crashed. Last year I reckoned the Dry arrived at the end of April, as it did in 2014 and 2015 so we’re running a couple of weeks late this year.
In numbers, the changes are from overnight minimums of 18 – 21 C for the beginning of May down to 13.4 and 10.6 on the nights of the 12th and 13th, and humidity from 55 – 90% down to 16 – 19%.
In daily life that means the cat becomes a permanent lap-rug, if he can get away with it, but we’re not permitted to stroke him because sparks leap painfully from the tips of his ears and tail. Meanwhile, we search for windcheaters we haven’t worn for six months and seek out patches of sunshine in the morning instead of drifting automatically into shade.
Let me be clear, however: I am not complaining. I love this weather, and after a good Wet season I really look forward to it.
Townsville’s Town Common Conservation Park is a world-famous (amongst birders, at least) wetland and bird refuge but it is not at its best now, six dry months after the second of two consecutive failed Wet seasons. My first three photos were all taken from the lookout above Tegoora Rock a week ago, looking towards the city, then turning right to look along the inland face of the Many Peaks Range, then (for completeness and variety) right again to look into the scrub on the ridge behind me.