Tag Archives: weather

The weather in southern Tasmania

The early non-indigenous settlers in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), almost all of whom were formerly residents of the typically rainswept and cool British Isles or had lived in hot India, documented their thoughts on the weather.

Their descriptions of our weather were usually based on comparisons with the situation from which they had relocated. Generally the impression given is that the weather on this island is temperate, irritatingly variable, and considerably easier to live with compared to that experienced in the settlers’ original homelands. For example, in James Bischoff’s “Sketch of the History of Van Diemen’s Land” written in 1832, there are many references to the climate and its relationship to agriculture and animal husbandry. More generally he says: ‘To one accustomed to the moist climate and plentifully watered countries of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Van Diemen’s Land, at first sight, may present a dry and unproductive appearance; but upon a nearer acquaintance, it will put on a more inviting aspect.’  It was ‘the regularity and salubrity of its climate’ which Bischoff found attractive.  The author also claims that ‘A book was published at Calcutta, in 1830, giving an account of Van Diemen’s Land, principally intended for the use of persons residing in India, and shewing the advantages it holds out to them for their residence; the following is extracted from that work: Its climate seems so well adapted to the renovating of the constitution of those who have suffered from their residence in India, that it only requires to be pointed out, and the easiest manner of getting there made known, as also the cheapness and comfort of living, when there, to turn the tide of visitors to the Cape and the Isle of France, towards its shores.’

Godwins Guide to Emigrants to VDL

Godwin’s “Emigrants Guide to Van Diemen’s Land more properly called Tasmania held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria, written in 1823, offers the following: ‘This island has to boast of perhaps the most salubrious and congenial climate of any in the known world, for our European constitution: It has been ascertained by the thermometer to be similar to that of the south of France; the general temperature being about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the extremes from 43 to 80 degrees. The spring commences early in August, the summer in November, the autumn in March, and the winter in May. The winter, therefore, is not of more than three months’ duration, and the severest part only six weeks.’

Ros Haynes writes on a University of Tasmania site in 2006 ‘In most areas there was adequate rainfall, the climate was more conducive to growing the crops they were used to …. The temperature was also considered more invigorating than the heat and humidity that enervated settlers in the other Australian colonies. Van Diemen’s Land was soon marketing itself as the ‘Sanatorium of the South’, famous for its flowers, fruit and healthy inhabitants.’

Dixons cover

John Dixon, in his 1839 book (available as an E-book) “The Condition and Capabilities of Van Diemen’s Land, as a Place of Emigration: Being the Practical Experience of Nearly Ten Year’s Residence in the Colony“, explained, ‘Lingering illness is seldom heard of in Van Diemen’s Land: and, in consequence, the deaths always seem to be sudden.  These seeming sudden deaths may contribute to praise of the climate: for they may improve its salutary influence, by sustaining the body in health longer there, than in the climate of another country.

These days we would describe our climate as being cool temperate with four distinct seasons. However, across the island, our temperature and rainfall ratings vary according to topography, nearness to the coast and time of the year.  Despite Tasmania’s capital city Hobart being the Australian capital city located closest to South Pole, it is known as the nation’s driest capital city.  By contrast, parts of the west coast of Tasmania expects rain for more than 300 days each year – I lived in Queenstown once and it rained for three weeks straight leaving me feeling very sun deprived.

Helpful tip

When you visit Tasmania for the first time, you will find any and everyone will be happy to talk with you about the weather – for many minutes at a time.  Such conversations may help you to make new friends.  However, please avoid some pitfalls. If you normally live in a super cold climate it may not be appropriate to say our weather is so mild and lovely here, when powder snow tops our mountains in the distance and light drizzle saturates the ground – because we may not think highly of the weather under those circumstances.  Similarly if you come from a very hot climate it may not be appropriate to say the weather is so gorgeously moderate here when we have a 35 Celsius degree day, because it is likely we will consider that to be a hot day. I guess we all have our peculiarities.

Walking again – not yet

Regular blog readers know I am eager to restart my walk inland along the Derwent River, and that my next travel date is dependent on the weather being suitable.

Despite unexpected occasional snow flurries in the higher areas, Hobart’s rising temperature and minimal rainfall has become more agreeable by the day, so recently I decided that it was time to tackle the walk west from New Norfolk to Gretna at the end of this week.

Unfortunately, the long range weather forecasts in the Bushy Park area, where I will be camping overnight before passing through, indicate the mornings will be -3 degrees and the days only rising to 14 degrees maximum (I cannot see any pleasure in breaking the ice in the morning to make a cup of tea).  In addition, a few splashes of rain are forecast. In reading these projections, I am reminded that the climatic situation in Hobart is not the same as in areas located many kilometres inland.  So, regrettably I must let a few more weeks pass before continuing on.

For me the perfect walking environment includes a temperature of between 15 and 21 degrees Celsius, a sunny day preferably without a cloud in the sky, and almost no breeze (definitely no wind). Before each walk I hope rain has cleaned the air so that all the green vegetation sparkles – but that everything I stroll through is no longer wet. During the early walking stages, I had quite a few of such lucky days – and I am hoping for more.

The question has been asked: when will I walk the New Norfolk leg?

The answer is that I don’t know because this year’s style of autumn weather is making decisions difficult.

Last year it was mid-May before I removed the summer cotton sheets from my bed and changed to the fleecy flannelette sheets for winter warmth. Until that time I wasn’t wearing thermal tops. But this year before the end of March, I am rugging up and friends are lighting warming fires.

With this drop in temperature, we have continued to have light or heavy rain, not for all the day but off and on unpredictably. The idea of walking with a raincoat on and off or an umbrella up and down all day does not thrill me.  I want an uninterrupted view of everything around me.  I want to be able to hear the sounds of the Derwent River and the birds without the distortion of pattering raindrops.

For my walks from the mouth to the mouth of the Derwent River via the Bridgewater Bridge, routinely I consulted the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) for their forecasts. Then, typically, I adjusted these predictions according to what I could see happening in the air over Mount Wellington.  Unfortunately, the leg from Bridgewater Bridge to New Norfolk is out of sight of the mountain and so I need to trust the BOM.  At this stage both next Monday and Tuesday look promising weather-wise in the New Norfolk area. Hopefully I will have fresh new stories of lived experience to post mid next week.

Glorious rain

Yesterday, I was excited by the weather and exclaimed “Oh this is so tropical!”

The day had been warm and humid with brooding clouds. Then, all of a sudden, I watched the weather front coming across Mt Wellington and the thick strong flashes of lightning. Booming thunder rolled through the air. Gradually the mountain, Hobart city then the Derwent River disappeared from view and rain spots larger than a 50 cent piece splattered and splashed heavily on my balcony.

Within seconds, the largest hail I have ever seen cracked down. Solid ice balls half the size of golf balls, settling on my garden, balcony and the street.  Torrential rain.

Five minutes later bits of sun struck through the rain, the mountain became visible again, and the storm had passed. But the white hail remained like a lace cover on my property – for almost 20 minutes. Marvellous!  Today’s newspaper has a story with an online video – have a look at the hail on http://www.news.com.au/national/tasmania/freak-storm-brings-hail-and-heavy-rain-to-southern-tasmania/story-fnn32rbc-1227158393426

I wondered how others around Hobart fared.  Friends told me how they were caught in the wildness of the storm and were drenched even when they used an umbrella. Others remarked on the deafening noise of the hail on a tin roof.  To quote from one email (thanks An) “Some of our garden is less than happy. I had to pick all of the rhubarb as it had honeycomb leaves, my begonia lost all of its leaves and flowers, the water lilies are shredded as are most of the magnolia leaves. I feel sorry for the cherry and soft fruit growers. We had a few drifts of ice near our lemon tree and the cool air was quite spectacular! Our gutters overflowed due to ice too. Quite an eventful afternoon.”

We all seemed to love the drama of the storm.