Knowing the signs to forecast the weather

DARK ART: Weather forecasting can sometimes work in strange and mysterious ways. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow

DARK ART: Weather forecasting can sometimes work in strange and mysterious ways. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow

The dark art of weather forecasting has really improved in recent years, hasn't it?  They are spot on most days.

Having been brought up on a farm, weather was a daily topic of conversation around our place. My dad went outside every night before going to bed.  Not just to have a pee, but to look at the sky, check the signs, smell the breeze, listen to the frogs. 

Like any farmer who works so closely with the land he could read the signs pretty well.  But as good as any of the old cockies were, they're no match for Aboriginal Australians, who have spent the past 50,000 years turning weather forecasting into an art form.  

They don't rely on the simplistic four seasons like us Europeans, but have many variable seasons linking the natural world to a cycle that predicts changes in their local area.

So when the tree frogs start getting active at Werai the Spring rains are coming or when the lilly-pilly fruit begins to ripen down below Belmore Falls it is time to skin a few wallabies to make winter cloaks. They are rarely wrong.

THERE is a lovely story about some Aboriginals living in a remote part of western Tasmania.  They asked their new young Elder if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild.

Since he had lived much of his formative years at boarding school in Melbourne on an Aussie Rules scholarship, he had never been properly taught the old secrets of the bush.

Consequently when he tried to read the natural world he didn't have a clue. So he took a safe punt, telling his people that the winter was indeed going to be cold and they should all collect a lot of firewood. So they did.

A few days later, just to be on the safe side, he pulled out his mobile phone and called his old footy mate at the Bureau of Meteorology. 

"Yes mate, it looks like this winter is going to be bloody cold in your neck of the woods," said the meteorologist, so the young Elder went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood. 

Two weeks later the young Elder called his mate again. 

"Are you really sure that the winter is going to be cold?" he asked. "Absolutely," the forecaster replied. "In fact I reckon it is shaping up to be one of the coldest winters on record." 

"How can you be so sure?" the young Elder asked. 

The weatherman didn’t hesitate, "Mate, we've never seen the western Tasmanian Aboriginals collecting so much firewood at this time of the year."

WHICH brings us to Dudley who was driving through the bush on a dark Winter's night in western Tasmania.

It was the night from hell. Rain was pelting down, the wind was howling, it was pitch black and the dirt road was becoming very treacherous.

Then, in the midst of this fearsome storm his car broke down miles from nowhere.

So, Dudley set off along the muddy road to search for help.

He walked and walked and walked. At about 2am he spotted a light in the distance.

As he got closer to the light, his luck had changed.

It was the George and Dragon Hotel. A warm bed for the night. Dudley knocked on the door. Cold, muddy, soaking and looking scruffy. After a while the publican’s wife came to the door, sleepily pulling a dressing gown over her night attire.

She took one look at Dudley on the step and cut loose.

“What are you doing knocking on my door at 2am? What a hide. You dirty, filthy, rude man. Get out of my sight and don’t come back here.”

Dudley didn’t say a thing and didn’t move from the doorstep.

“Why are you still standing there? bellowed the publicans wife as she prepared to slam the door in his face.

“I was just wondering,” stammered Dudley, “if I could possibly have a word with George.”

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