Australia, forming as it does a vast island continent in the Southern world, lies to some extent within the tropical range, for the Tropic of Capricorn traverses its northern part. At present, however, its most densely populated portion lies just outside the tropics, and it is this semi-tropical part of Australia with which we have mostly to do. And apart, too, from the mere fact of Australia being between certain parallels of latitude, which makes its climate tropical or semi-tropical, as the case may be, its position is peculiar in that it forms this enormous ocean-girt continent already described.
One of the most extraordinary circumstances in connection with the Australian people is, that they have never yet realized their semi-tropical environment. It would naturally be supposed that a dominating influence of this kind would have, from the very first, exercised an irresistible effect on their mode of living. But, on the contrary, the type of the Australian dwelling-house, the clothing of the Australian people, and, what is more significant than anything else, their food habits, prove incontestably that they have never recognised the semi-tropical character of their climate all over the rest of the world it will be found that the inhabitants of different regions adapt themselves to their surroundings. For instance, the Laplander and the Hindoo live in such a widely different manner, that one can scarcely believe they belong to the same human family.
It has, however, been reserved for Australia, strange even from the first, to prove an exception to this universal law. Yes, strange even from the first! For did not the earliest arrivals find that the seasons came at the wrong time of the year; that Christmas-tide came with sunshine, and that the middle of the year was its coolest part? Were there not found in it curious animals, partly quadruped, partly bird, and partly reptile? Were there not discovered, also, other animals who carried their young in a pouch? Moreover, did Dot these first settlers see that the trees shed their bark, and not their leaves; and that the stones were on the outside, not the inside, of the cherries?
But even admitting these peculiarities of season, of FAUNA and of flora it may be asked, How is it that the people of Australia have never adapted themselves to their climatic surroundings? The answer, or rather answers, to such an interrogation must largely consist of matters of opinion. This being the case, therefore, I call do no more than attempt to give my own explanation of this singular anomaly. It must be remembered that the one great impetus to colonisation in Australia was the discovery of gold in 1851. Up till that time settlement had been proceeding steadily, it is true. Indeed, one may go 80 far as to say that the development of the country was progressing, although slowly, on safe and natural lines. But the announcement of the finding of gold, which was continually being corroborated by successive reports, acted as an electric stimulus throughout the whole civilized world. As a consequence shipload after shipload of new comers flocked to Australia, all aflame with the same ardent desire — gold. Amongst them were certainly many of the picked men of the earth, whose spirit will leaven the whole of Australasia for all time to come. Yet even at the present day we still see the influence of this gold period at work, in the readiness with which men are caught by any plausible mining prospectus. They have only to be told that a company is being formed to extract gold out of road metal, and they are ready to believe it, and, what is more, prepared to put money into it.
But far better than all this eagerness to amass wealth by some fortunate COUP, would be the natural development of the country. Agriculture and market-gardening, vine-growing and wine-making, the deep-sea fisheries and all the other comparatively neglected opportunities, only await their expansion into vast sources of wealth. What wonder, then, that a continent with so much that is wanting in connection with its food life should be living in a manner distinctly opposed to its climatological necessities! In the case of America there is a far different history. Settlement began there in a small way at first, to gradually expand as time went on. There was no sudden event, with the exception of the short-lived Californian gold rush of 1849–50, to set men flocking to its shores in countless legions. No, in America the inland territory has been peopled, steadily and slowly at first, but in after years by leaps and bounds, so that its development has been on a perfectly natural basis.
But there must be something even more than this to explain the want of adaptation to climate shown in Australia, and it is, I think, to be found in the following. It must be remembered that Australia has been peopled chiefly by the Anglo–Saxon race. In such a stock the traditional tendencies are almost ineradicable, and hence it is that the descendants of the new comers believe as their fathers, did before them. It’s in the blood. For there can be no doubt but that the Anglo–Saxon thinks there is only one way of living in every part of the world — no matter whether the climate be tropical, semi-tropical, or frigid. Those in the old country live in a certain manner, and all the rest of the globe have every right to follow their example.
These two facts that Australia was peopled in part by the influx which followed the discovery of gold, and that its inhabitants belong essentially to the Anglo–Saxon race, have unquestionably exercised a great influence over our Australian food-habits. But notwithstanding these powerful underlying factors, there still remains that most extraordinary circumstance, to which I at first referred, namely, that the Australian people have never realized their semi-tropical environment. In order to assign to this latter the prominence it deserves, it seems desirable to make special inquiry into the peculiarities of the climate in its different parts. With that object in view, therefore, I wrote for certain information to the observatories of the four principal Australian metropolitan centres, namely, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane. As has always been the case, I received the fullest answers to my requests from Mr. H.C. Russell, Government Astronomer of New South Wales; from Mr. R.L.J. Ellery, Government Astronomer of Victoria; from Sir Charles Todd, Government Observer of South Australia; and from Mr. Clement L. Wragge, Government Meteorologist of Queensland. And it is with a feeling of considerable indebtedness to these gentlemen that I acknowledge their uniform kindness. And yet it is important to remember that the annual temperature, by itself, of any given locality may afford no indication whatever of its climatic peculiarities. Take for instance the climate of the North–Eastern portion of the United States. That region is characterized by intense heat during the summer, and extreme cold in the winter. In New York, for example, the mean summer temperature ranges as high as 70.9 degrees, while the mean winter temperature is as low as 30.1 degrees; yet the mean temperature of the whole year is 53.2 degrees, affording no indication of these extremes. The mean annual temperature alone, therefore, would be entirely misleading, as it would give no idea of these alternations of heat and cold. Such being the case, the actual character of any climate will be far better realized by placing in juxtaposition the mean annual temperature, the mean temperature of the hot, and the mean temperature of the cooler months. First of all, then, I purpose showing the mean annual temperature, and also the mean temperatures for the hot and cooler months, of the four largest Australian centres.
TABLE showing the Mean Annual Temperature, and also the Mean Temperatures for the Hot and Cooler Months, of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
|Capital.||Mean Annual||Mean Temperature||Mean Temperature|
|Temeperature||for the Hot Months||for the Cold Months|
Much will be gained by a comparison of these temperatures of the Australian capitals with those of some other cities in different parts of the world. A contrast of this kind will, in my opinion, help to a truer understanding of the climate of these capitals, than any other. Accordingly I made a successful application to Mr. H.C. Russell, for the corresponding temperatures of the following cities: London, Edinburgh, Dublin; Marseilles, Naples, Messina; New York, San Francisco, New Orleans; Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.
TABLE showing the Mean Annual Temperature, as well as the Mean Summer and Winter Temperatures, in twelve different cities.
UNITED KINGDOM . . . .
|City.||Mean Annual Temp.||Mean Summer Temp.||Mean Winter Temp.|
. . . .
. . . .
It has been said that Australia is practically Southern Europe, and to a very great extent this is perfectly true. It will be seen, however, on reference to the preceding tables, that the Australian climate is more equable than that of Southern Europe, for there is not such a marked difference between the hot and the cooler months. In the New England States of North America, as exemplified by New York, there are intensely hot summers and extremely cold winters — to which fact attention has already been drawn. And lastly, in India, the thermometer stands at such a height, winter as well as summer, that we can only be thankful our lines are cast in more pleasant places.
Having thus compared the summer and winter temperatures of the Australian capitals with those of other cities in different parts of the world, it will be advisable to direct our attention to some details connected with the climate of these capitals, and of the corresponding colonies generally. Commencing with Sydney we find that the climate is characterized by the absence of very violent changes of temperature, owing in great measure to its proximity to the ocean, which in winter is about 10 degrees warmer than the air. Its summer climate is marked by the absence of hot winds, which do not come more than three or four times, and the are short-lived, seldom lasting more than five or six hours. For a short time in the midsummer of each year, Sydney is visited regularly by moist sea breezes, which are enervating to many persons. While these continue the temperature seldom rises to 80 degrees, but there is so much moisture that they are very oppressive. Otherwise the climate is one of the most enjoyable in the world. In other parts of New South Wales towns may be found varying in mean temperature from 45.8 degrees at Kiandra to 69.1 degrees at Bourke. Speaking generally it is a fact that for the same mean annual temperature in New South Wales the range between summer and winter temperature is less than it is in Europe.
The climate of Melbourne is characterized by a low average humidity, moderate rainfall, and moderate winds, strong gales being of her rare occurrence. The most marked feature is the summer hot wind. A hot wind is always a northerly wind, and the highest temperature generally occurs a little before the win changes to west or south-west. When this takes place a sudden drop to a comparatively low temperature sometimes follows within a few minutes. These hot winds, however, are not frequent, only averaging eight or nine per annum. These characteristics will apply to all Victoria except the mountain ranges, where all the climatic elements vary with the altitude.
The climate of Adelaide is certainly healthy, and, with the exception of the extreme heat occasionally experienced in summer, the weather may be described as enjoyable. It must be remembered, however, that these high temperatures are always accompanied by extreme dryness, the wet bulb thermometer usually reading at such times from 30 to 35 degrees, or even more, below the temperature of the air. The heat is, therefore, more bearable than if it was combined with the humid atmosphere. When the thermometer stands perhaps at something over 100 degrees, the wet bulb thermometer will show 65 degrees, and it is this which enables persons to bear the heat of the summer and carry on their usual pursuits with less inconvenience and discomfort than is felt in tropical and damp climates, though the temperature may be 15 or 20 degrees lower, but nearly saturated with aqueous vapour, as at Port Darwin, where during the rainy season of the north-west monsoon the thermometer may stand at only 88 degrees, whilst the wet bulb at the same time indicates 86 degrees. Such an atmosphere, it need hardly be said, is far more enervating than the hot and dry air of the Adelaide plains. The summer, which may be termed warm and dry, usually extends over, say, five months; and during the remainder of the year the climate is simply perfect. The temperature in mid-winter over the Adelaide plains rarely, if ever, reaches the freezing point, although there may be sharp frosts, and on still clear nights, so frequently experienced, copious dews. On the ranges, and on the high lying plains 150 miles north of Adelaide, lower temperatures are reached, indeed in some years there have been falls of snow.
The climatic features of Brisbane are, as a mean expression, decidedly semi-tropical. The months from October to March may be classed as tropic when vegetation makes luxuriant growth, especially if the rainfall prove abundant. The rest of the year, from April to September, is marked by a dry, bracing, “continental” climate, during which the westerly wind often proves very cold, bleaching, and searching accompanied by great dryness accumulated during the passage of this current from southern-central Australia. Many settlers affirm that they feel the peculiar searching character of the dry cold “westerlies” more keenly than the more “honest” frost of the old country. Yet vigorous constitutions thoroughly enjoy the bracing nature of the westerly weather of winter. Hard ground frosts not unfrequently occur in the Darling Downs and Maranoa districts, especially during May, June, and July, in connection with the westerly type of climate; and, moreover, ice has at times been observed in the water-jugs of bedrooms, &c. As before intimated, the westerly winds are marked by great dryness, so that (saturation= 100) a percentage of relative humidity below 33 per cent. may occur during the prevalence of such phenomena, not only in Brisbane, but especially in the more western districts above mentioned. Such conditions are characterized by great diathermancy of atmosphere, and hence are frequently followed by days of considerable heat. Even in the tropics, in inland districts, ground frosts are known to have occurred owing to this extreme diathermancy of the atmosphere far from the coast, and the consequent attendant factor of active terrestrial radiation. In coast districts, or that fringe of country bordering the ocean north from Rockhampton, frost is of very rare occurrence, and the prevailing winds are between south-east and east-north-east, with a rainfall far more abundant than that obtaining in other parts of Queensland. The climate of the country surrounding the southern end of the Gulf of Carpentaria is very hot and trying from November to March, but genial thenceforward. It is certainly not unhealthy, and the fevers suffered from in the northern and gulf districts of Queensland are largely brought on by reckless or needless exposure.
In addition to the foregoing, which has been obtained from head-quarters, certain questions were submitted by me as to the climatology of the different colonies. As it will be seen, these interrogations are somewhat extensive in their scope, and supply knowledge upon points, which is not ordinarily met with in my descriptions of Australian climate. In drafting them everything which had a bearing on health was included as far as possible, and consequently in a work of this kind they unquestionably deserve a prominent place. In arranging them I purpose placing the different replies after each question in the following order, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland. And in the different answers it should be borne in mind that Mr. H.C. Russell is responsible for New South Wales; Mr. R.L.J. Ellery for Victoria; Sir Charles Todd for South Australia; and Mr. Clement L. Wragge for Queensland.
New South Wales. — The temperature sometimes changes rapidly in the summer, coming with a change from a hot wind to a cold southerly, although the instances are rare. Once in 30 years I have known such a change to amount to 20 degrees in 15 minutes. Under ordinary circumstances the change in temperature from hot to cold wind takes several hours to amount to 20 degrees. The fluctuations of barometric pressure are moderate, seldom amounting to half an inch in a day, or an inch in a week. In England, on the other hand, the pressure sometimes varies quickly to the extent of two inches.
Victoria. — Yes; the temperature much more so than the barometric pressure; it has fallen from a high temperature to 20 and even 30 degrees sometimes in as many minutes, when a hot north wind has suddenly changed to a cold southerly one. But such sudden and great changes occur very seldom, and then only in the hot summer months, and are known as “the change.” On several occasions in the last 30 years it has fallen from 105 degrees in the shade to 70 degrees and 65 degrees in the shade in less than an hour.
South Australia. — Yes, in the summer; but, especially as regards temperature, rarely in the winter. One notable example occurred on February 9th, 1887, when during a heavy thunder-storm the temperature fell 25 degrees in 10 or 15 minutes, followed by a rising temperature. In other instances the fall of temperature has been almost equally rapid. From this it will be seen that we are subject to large and quick falls of temperature following extreme heat. The approach of hot weather is usually gradual, and the fall abrupt. The barometer has been known to show a rise of 6/10 of an inch in 24 hours; this, however, is exceptional.
Queensland. — There is no record of a fall of as much as 22 degrees in 15 minutes. But, on the other hand, a rise of 30 degrees in three hours is a common feature over the Darling Downs after sunrise. Owing to the diathermancy of the atmosphere already referred to, it is a fact, nevertheless, that in the “continental” or inland districts of Southern Queensland the temperature in winter is subject to sudden and marked changes. Barometric pressure, owing to the comparatively low latitude, is not exposed to sudden and marked changes, except during hurricane conditions, which usually affect the central coast-line in February and March.
New South Wales. — No; just the opposite. Indeed, as regards Sydney itself. there are few cities in which so much uniformity of temperature and slow changes, are to be found. The cause of any great change is the hot wind, and as that seldom comes more than three or four times in the year, great changes are infrequent. The mean diurnal range in Sydney is 11 1/2 degrees, and taking a series of years it is very unusual for the range on any day to reach 25 degrees.
Victoria. — No; because these are exceptional phenomena. In the late Spring and during early summer the climate may be said to be occasionally subject to sharp and sudden changes, which give it the character of variability. But the deviations from mean temperature, except for short periods, are not remarkable.
South Australia. — Yes, in summer; but not in winter.
Queensland. — Certainly not; with the exception of the wide diurnal range of temperature in winter in the southern “continental” districts, as at Cambooya and Thargomindah. The changes are, according to my knowledge, far more sudden and marked in the southern colonies (as during a “shift” from N.E. by W., to S.W. for instance, at Melbourne, and especially at Adelaide) than in Queensland and its coastal districts.
New South Wales. — Much depends upon what temperature is deemed a “high level.” If we assume that 90 degrees and upwards is a high level, then such periods are very rare in Sydney; in fact during the past 24 years there have only been three. In 1868 there were three consecutive hot days of which the mean temperature was 91.8 degrees; in 1870 a period of four days with a mean temperature of 91.3 degrees; and in 1874 a period of four days with a mean temperature of 90.2 degrees. Since then, although sometimes near it, the temperature has never been for three days over 90 degrees. Taking a lower level, we have one period of nine days in 1870, the longest on record, during which the mean temperature was 82.6 degrees. It must, however, be distinctly understood that what is here taken is not the mean temperature of each 24 hours, but the highest temperature reached during the day, and which would not as a rule last more than three or four hours, if so much. If the mean temperature of the day were taken these temperatures, as given, would have to be reduced at least 10 per cent.
Victoria. — It is very unusual to have a hot period lasting more than three days; when it does happen it is generally in February or March. In the majority of cases high temperatures (over 90 degrees) do not last more than one or two days. The exceptions generally occur in February or March, and have sometimes extended to four or five days hot weather, with a temperature of over 80 degrees with a maximum of about 90 degrees, has on a few occasions during the last 30 years extended from five to ten days; and in 1890, a memorable instance, to 12 days (the only case for 37 years).
South Australia. — The longest stretch of continuous heat noted was in January and February 1857. On January 28th, 29th, and 30th, the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, and during the whole of February it was over 90 degrees on 25 days, and above 100 degrees on 12 days, the mean being 107 degrees. In January 1858 there were 10 consecutive days over 90 degrees, of which eight consecutive days were over 100 degrees. In January 1860 there were in the beginning of the month seven consecutive days, above 100 degrees (maximum 107.5 degrees). In the middle of the same month, seven days were over 90 degrees, of which five exceeded 100 degrees, two days reaching 113.7 degrees. These are, however, exceptions to our usual experience. Although there are several other instances of great heat, yet the foregoing will suffice to show what we occasionally suffer without much harm being done.
Queensland. — During the period February 17th to February 23rd, 1891, the shade temperature at Townsville ranged between 81 degrees and 62 degrees, but at Cairns a range between 82 degrees and 70 degrees is of frequent occurrence, within at least fortnightly periods.
Before setting forth the different answers in response to this, it will be desirable to refer briefly to the term “humidity.” The humidity of the atmosphere is defined as the degree of its approach to saturation. Air completely saturated is represented by 100, and that absolutely free of vapour by 0. As a matter of fact, however, the latter never occurs; even in the driest regions of Arabia a humidity of 10 per cent. is almost unknown. For its estimation the Wet and Dry Bulb thermometers are employed. These consist of two ordinary thermometers. One has its bulb exposed so as to register the temperature of the air. The bulb of the other is covered with muslin; this latter material being kept wet through its connection with a cotton wick dipping into a vessel of water. The water ascends from this vessel by capillary attraction, spreads over the muslin, and evaporates quickly or slowly, according to the dryness or moistness of the atmosphere. Thus when the air is driest the difference between the two thermometers will be greatest, and, on the contrary, when it is completely saturated with moisture the two readings will be almost identical.
New South Wales. — A considerable part of the colony, forming the western plains, is subject to great heat, caused, no doubt, by the sun’s great power on treeless plains, and the almost total absence of cooling winds; yet, although in summer the temperature here frequently rises over 100 degrees, and sometimes up to 120 degrees, owing to the cold at night and in winter the mean temperatures are not greater than those of corresponding latitudes in the northern hemisphere. This region of the colony is remarkably dry, and stock of all kinds thrive well and are very free from disease. At Bourke, the driest place in the colony, the humidity for a long series of years is — in the spring 51 degrees, in the summer 49 degrees, in the autumn 61 degrees, and in the winter 74 degrees. At Sydney the humidity in the Spring is 69 degrees, in the summer 70 degrees, in the autumn 79 degrees, and in the winter 79 degrees.
Victoria. — The humidity of the air of Melbourne is low, the average being 71 per cent. In the summer it falls to 65, and on hot days is generally very low. The characteristic of our hot weather is that it is usually extremely dry; the exceptions are very few, and occur in the late Spring and early autumn during thundery, muggy weather. On the hottest days, with north winds, the dryness makes the heat much more endurable, and the humidity frequently falls to between 30 and 40 per cent.
South Australia. — Attention has already been drawn to the fact that the hot, dry air met with on the Adelaide plains is far more endurable than a lower temperature in which the atmosphere is surcharged with aqueous vapour. A damp atmosphere is a rare thing in South Australia during the summer, though in March there are at times some warm and humid days. In the winter the air for the most part is dry, although the nights are often damp. The Mount Lofty Ranges, close to Adelaide, afford a cool retreat; they have a very large rainfall, in some years over 50 inches. The climate at Mount Gambier, in the south-eastern part of the colony, is cooler and damper; it has also a much heavier rainfall than the Adelaide plains.
New South Wales and Victoria. — Spring — September, October, November; Summer — December, January, February; Autumn — March, April, May; Winter — June, July, August.
South Australia. — Spring — September, October; Summer comprises the five months from November to March inclusive; Autumn — April, May; Winter — June, July, August. Practically, in South Australia the year may be divided into two seasons, namely, Spring, the seven months from April to October inclusive; and Summer, the five months from November to March inclusive.
Queensland. — With regard to Southern Queensland, the seasons may be provisionally apportioned as follows: Spring — August, September, October; Summer — November, December, January, February, Autumn — March, April, May; Winter — June, July.
New South Wales. — A general statement is not sufficient, for the winds vary much at different places; but taking the colony as a whole, its prevailing winds come from some point between north-west and south-west, and hence the dry climate. In Sydney no less than 39.6 per cent. of the wind comes from this quarter. The winds known as southerly bursters are generally to be expected from November to the end of February; they are always attended with strong electrical excitement, a stream of sparks being sometimes produced for an hour at the electrometer. The approach of the true burster is indicated by a peculiar roll of clouds, which, when once seen, cannot be mistaken. It is just above the South horizon, and extends on either side of it 15 degrees or 20 degrees, and looks as if a thin sheet of cloud were being rolled up like a scroll by the advancing wind. The change of wind is sometimes very sudden; it may be fresh N.E. and in ten minutes a gale from S. Hence vessels not on the look-out are sometimes caught unprepared, and suffer accordingly. When a southerly wind commences anywhere south of Sydney it is at once telegraphed to its principal coast towns, and a signal put up indicating its approach. As to the hot winds, they are so insignificant in number that it cannot be said they play any particular ROLE. Their effect is to raise the temperature, because they flow from the heated interior of Australia; but they do not last long. and for the majority of people are dry, healthy winds. Indeed, they are by no means so oppressive as the warm north-east wind, so charged with moisture, which comes in the summer.
Victoria. — In summer the N. winds blow to the extent of 8 per cent., the S.W. winds 24.1 per cent., and the S. winds 201 per cent. Northerly, or warm-quarter winds, in summer are 20 per cent., and southerly, or cool-quarter winds, 64 per cent. The northerly winds in winter, however, are bleak and cold, like easterly winds in England. The particular ROLE played by the hot wind is to precede a cyclonic movement, and is always in front of a low pressure area or V-shaped depression. It is frequently followed by thunderstorms and rain of short duration. It dries the surface and raises dust storms when strong. So far as its effects on the people are concerned, it does not appear to hinder the ordinary occupations of life. Some invalids are better during its continuance, some worse; but all weakly people feel some depression after “the change” comes. The aged are generally better in hot winds, unless they suffer from disease.
South Australia. — As far as the southern regions of the colony are concerned, we may say, speaking generally, that light winds and calms are a very distinctive characteristic. The prevailing wind in the summer is the S.E., varied by sea-breezes during the day. In the winter there are mostly dry, cold N.E. winds, broken at intervals by westerly and S.W. gales of moderate strength, squalls, and rain. The best and heaviest rainfalls are those which set in with the surface winds at N.E., the rain increasing in intensity as the wind veers to N.W., and breaking up into showers and squalls as it veers to S.W. In the interior, north of, say, latitude 30 degrees to about 18 degreess., the prevailing wind all the year is the S.E. North of latitude 18 degrees to the north coast the country is well within the influence of the north-nest monsoon during the summer months, with frequent thunderstorms and heavy rains; and during, the winter dry S.E. winds prevail.
Queensland. — Eastern Queensland (or rather the Pacific Slope) is very seldom troubled with hot winds. The hot winds of “continental” Queensland are always very dry, and are usually accompanied by dust storms.
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