El Niño a Perennial and Episodic Feature of Australia’s Climate

The classic poem ‘My Country’ written by Dorothea Mackellar in the early 1900s, and reproduced below, illustrates the extremes of the Australian’s experience of climate – both the ‘drought’ and the ‘ flooding rains’ - so much a feature of the El Niño/ La Nina phenomenon:

My Country
(verses 2, 4 and 5)
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!
Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.
Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…
By Dorothea Mackellar (1904)

As this famous poem suggests, Australia has always experienced these extremes of temperature and weather conditions.  The evidence for this is not only in the weather records of recent times (carefully maintained in the Bureau of Meteorology data bases) but also in the geological fossil record that stretches far back into Australia’s prehistory.