Should Australia have five seasons?

  • BY Katie Duncan |
  • April 12, 2011

Is our current model of four seasons working? One expert believes that five seasons is more suitable.

Is our current model of four seasons working? One expert believes that five seasons is more suitable.


IS AUSTRALIA IN NEED
 of a fifth season? Some experts believe the model we follow, which comprises four, three-month seasons, has always been unsuited to our continent. "When Europeans arrived in Australia they brought a lot of cultural baggage, including a seasonal system from the temperate Northern Hemisphere," says scientist Dr Tim Entwisle, at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens.

Some different season models from Aboriginal tribes


But Australia's weather patterns are very different, with some areas experiencing high rainfall for several months of the year, followed by long, dry periods. "Four seasons just don't make sense," says Tim. He developed his own five-season model for Australia's central east, but says that because climate and weather patterns vary substantially, different regions have different requirements.

In his model (top, right), spring begins a month early, when many native plants flower. Called 'sprinter', it lasts two months, and is followed by two-month-long 'sprummer'. A four-month-long summer begins in December, before autumn, sets in.

"Seasons are cultural constructs reminding us that there are cyclic changes in the environment," says Tim. Before European settlement, the seasons recognised by Aboriginal communities (right) varied across Australia, and were based on changes in wildlife and vegetation.

Tim says indigenous calendars do a much better job of reflecting our climate than the inherited European model.

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Source
: Australian Geographic, Issue 102 (April - June, 2011)