Friday, May 04, 2007

Aborigines Use Ancient Weather Forecasting Methods To Predict Coming Rains

For more than 60,000 years, Australian Aborigines have been reading the land, the clouds, the stars, the plants and the animals to predict how the cycles of nature would affect their hunting and gathering in the season ahead.

Using that ancient knowledge, some of the world's longest surviving cultured people are seeing a bit of good news in the natural world for some areas of Australia devastated by mega-drought.

So don't start evacuating the cities just yet, drought breaking rains might not be as far away as previously thought :

With wattle trees blooming across southeastern Australia and native birds and cockatoos on the wing, Aboriginal weather watchers say rain is on the way – giving some hope to parts of the country ravaged by drought.

"The cockys are flocking everywhere. That's usually a good sign that rain is coming," said Jeremy Clark, from Victoria.

"The way the flora and plants and shrubs are starting to react, I'd certainly be expecting rain."

For the first time, the forecasts from Clark's Brambuk community, which covers five Aboriginal homelands, are being taken seriously by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology as it looks for different ways to better understand the changing climate.

Bureau climate meteorologist Harvey Stern said the traditional Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring seasons have little relevance in Australia's tropical north – or even in the temperate south, where aborigines have six seasons based on the weather and changes to the natural environment.

The bureau's Indigenous Weather Knowledge programme taps into the Aboriginal philosophy that all of nature is connected, and subtle changes to plants and animals can give clues about the climate and weather.

Mr Clark, chief executive of the Brambuk community which covers most of western Victoria, including the Grampians mountains and national park, said Aborigines have always had different ways of looking at the weather, reading landscape rather than a calendar.

"It's still practised. We won't go fishing for eels, for example, until wattles start flowering and the animals start moving, and the full moon comes. Then you know the eels are running on the migratory journey to the sea," he said.