The Climates Of AuSTRALIA

new zealand, and Antarctica

In the South Pacific lies Australia, among the driest continents on Earth. Nearly half of the continent receives fewer than 10 in. (25 cm.) of rain per year. Less than 10 percent of Australia receives more than 40 in. (108 cm.). The South Equatorial Current warms the north and west coasts of Australia. Because of this ocean current, northwestern Australia is hottest. Marble Bar, Australia has recorded 121 degrees F (49 degrees C) and 161 consecutive days of at least 100 degrees F (38 degrees C). Roebourne, Australia has reached 117 degrees F (47 degrees C) in January and 220 days of at least 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) . The north of Australia receives its rain in summer, whereas the south receives its rain in winter. Paradoxically, the rainy season is less humid than the dry season.

Off the southeast coast of Australia lies New Zealand. At about the latitude of Italy in the Northern Hemi sphere, New Zealand, bereft of the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea, is 10 degrees F (6 degrees C) cooler than Italy in summer. In winter, New Zealand, benefiting from warm Pacific currents, is warmer than Italy. New Zealand summers are sunny. Much of New Zealand receives fewer than 40 in. (102 cm.) of rain per year. The rains fall between October and January, with the heaviest rain in October.

South of the habitable continents is Antarctica, a land of unremitting snow and ice. The climate is too cold for the continent to host permanent settlements of humans. December averages minus 8 degrees F (minus 22 degrees C) and in January, minus 18 (minus 28 degrees C) . Precipitation, in the form of snow, falls in winter. Summer has clear skies and sunshine, but the sun is not warm enough at this latitude to melt the snow and ice. Instead, snow falls upon already existing piles of snow, compacting it into ice.

So important is climate that it shapes human affairs. The drying of the climate about five million years ago changed East Africa from forest to grassland and forced human ancestors out of the trees and onto the grasslands as bipeds. Drought may have extinguished the Akkadian and Mayan civilizations. The Little Ice Age nearly froze George Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge. Humans are very much creatures of their climate.

SEE ALSO: Climate Change, Effects; Climate Cycles; Climate Models; Climate Zones; Climatic Data, Historical Records; Ice Ages; Greenhouse Effect; Volcanism.

BIBLIOGRApHY. Ruth Fainlight, Climates (Bloodaxe Books, 1983); W.G. Kendrew, The Climates of the Continents (Clarendon Press, 1961); Edward Linacre and Bart Geerts, Climates and Weather Explained (Routledge, 1997); Masa-toshi Yoshino, Climates and Societies: A Climatological Perspective (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997).

Christopher Cumo Independent Scholar

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