Northern Australia

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Northern Australia
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The unofficial geographic term Northern Australia includes those parts of Queensland and Western Australia north of latitude 26° and all of the Northern Territory.[ citation needed ] Those local government areas of Western Australia and Queensland that lie partially in the north are included.

Queensland North-east state of Australia

Queensland is the second-largest and third-most populous state in the Commonwealth of Australia. Situated in the north-east of the country, it is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean. To its north is the Torres Strait, with Papua New Guinea located less than 200 km across it from the mainland. The state is the world's sixth-largest sub-national entity, with an area of 1,852,642 square kilometres (715,309 sq mi).

Western Australia State in Australia

Western Australia is a state occupying the entire western third of Australia. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, and the Southern Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east, and South Australia to the south-east. Western Australia is Australia's largest state, with a total land area of 2,529,875 square kilometres, and the second-largest country subdivision in the world, surpassed only by Russia's Sakha Republic. The state has about 2.6 million inhabitants – around 11 percent of the national total – of whom the vast majority live in the south-west corner, 79 per cent of the population living in the Perth area, leaving the remainder of the state sparsely populated.

Latitude The angle between zenith at a point and the plane of the equator

In geography, latitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the Earth's surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east–west as circles parallel to the equator. Latitude is used together with longitude to specify the precise location of features on the surface of the Earth. On its own, the term latitude should be taken to be the geodetic latitude as defined below. Briefly, geodetic latitude at a point is the angle formed by the vector perpendicular to the ellipsoidal surface from that point, and the equatorial plane. Also defined are six auxiliary latitudes which are used in special applications.

Contents

Although it comprises about half of the total area of Australia, Northern Australia includes only about one quarter of the Australian population. However, it includes several sources of Australian exports, being coal from the Great Dividing Range in Queensland/New South Wales and the natural gas and iron ore of the Pilbara region in WA. It also includes major natural tourist attractions, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu National Park.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Coal A combustible sedimentary rock composed primarily of carbon

Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock, formed as rock strata called coal seams. Coal is mostly carbon with variable amounts of other elements; chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen. Coal is formed if dead plant matter decays into peat and over millions of years the heat and pressure of deep burial converts the peat into coal. Vast deposits of coal originates in former wetlands—called coal forests—that covered much of the Earth's tropical land areas during the late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) and Permian times.

Great Dividing Range mountain range in the Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria

The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest land-based range in the world. It stretches more than 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through New South Wales, then into Victoria and turning west, before finally fading into the central plain at the Grampians in western Victoria. The width of the range varies from about 160 km (100 mi) to over 300 km (190 mi). The Greater Blue Mountains Area, Gondwana Rainforests, and Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Areas are located in the range.

Geography and climate

Almost all of Northern Australia is a huge ancient craton that has not experienced geological upheaval since the end of the Precambrian. The only exception to this generalisation is the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland, where active volcanoes have been present as recently as the Pleistocene.

Craton Old and stable part of the continental lithosphere

A craton is an old and stable part of the continental lithosphere, where the lithosphere consists of the Earth's two topmost layers, the crust and the uppermost mantle. Having often survived cycles of merging and rifting of continents, cratons are generally found in the interiors of tectonic plates. They are characteristically composed of ancient crystalline basement rock, which may be covered by younger sedimentary rock. They have a thick crust and deep lithospheric roots that extend as much as several hundred kilometres into the Earth's mantle.

The Precambrian is the earliest part of Earth's history, set before the current Phanerozoic Eon. The Precambrian is so named because it preceded the Cambrian, the first period of the Phanerozoic eon, which is named after Cambria, the Latinised name for Wales, where rocks from this age were first studied. The Precambrian accounts for 88% of the Earth's geologic time.

Wet Tropics of Queensland natural national heritage site in Cairns QLD

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site consists of approximately 8,940 km² of Australian wet tropical forests growing along the north-east Queensland portion of the Great Dividing Range. The Wet Tropics of Queensland meets all four of the criteria for natural heritage for selection as a World Heritage Site. World Heritage status was declared in 1988, and on 21 May 2007 the Wet Tropics were added to the Australian National Heritage List.

The vast craton in the north and west contains a number of quite rugged mountain ranges, of which the highest are the MacDonnell and Musgrave Ranges on the southern border of the Northern Territory. These rise to over 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), but the most spectacular features are the deep gorges of rivers such as the Finke. Most of the craton, however, is distinctly flat and generally low-lying with an average elevation of around 400 metres (1,300 ft), whilst in the Lake Eyre Basin most of the land is not far above sea level.

Musgrave Ranges is a mountain range in Central Australia, straddling the boundary of South Australia and the Northern Territory, extending into Western Australia. It is between the Great Victoria Desert to the south and the Gibson Desert to the north. They have a length of 210 kilometres (130 mi) and many peaks that have a height of more than 1,100 metres (3,600 ft), the highest being Mount Woodroffe at 1,435 metres (4,708 ft).

Finke River river in the Northern Territory, Australia

The Finke River is one of the largest rivers in central Australia.

The climate of the north of Australia ranges from arid (Köppen BWh) in the south to monsoonal (Köppen Aw) in the Top End and Kimberley. On the eastern coast, however, the climate is much more humid and ranges from humid sub-tropical (Köppen Cfa around Brisbane and Cwa further north) to humid tropical (Köppen Am and Af) in the Wet Tropics. Except in the western part of the Pilbara and Gascoyne where the heaviest rain often occurs from May to July under northwest cloudbands, rainfall is heavily concentrated in the "summer" months from November to March. For instance, in Burketown, the months May to September are rainless in over fifty percent of years, with over eighty percent of Augusts having no rain. [1]

Arid severe lack of available water

A region is arid when it is characterized by a severe lack of available water, to the extent of hindering or preventing the growth and development of plant and animal life. Environments subject to arid climates tend to lack vegetation and are called xeric or desertic. Most "arid" climates straddle the Equator; these places include parts of Africa, South America, Central America, and Australia.

Köppen climate classification widely used climate classification system

The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems. It was first published by the Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen (1846–1940) in 1884, with several later modifications by Köppen, notably in 1918 and 1936. Later, the climatologist Rudolf Geiger introduced some changes to the classification system, which is thus sometimes called the Köppen–Geiger climate classification system.

Monsoon seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea

Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea. Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase. The term is sometimes incorrectly used for locally heavy but short-term rains, although these rains meet the dictionary definition of monsoon.

Temperatures in summer are generally unpleasantly hot apart from the eastern coastal belt. Maximum temperatures elsewhere between October and April range from 30 °C (86 °F) in the south in April to around 40 °C (104 °F) in the inland Pilbara and Kimberley before the wet season breaks. Further north, maxima are consistently around 32 °C (90 °F) but extreme humidity makes conditions very unpleasant. On the coast, maxima in January range from 29 °C (84 °F) in the south to 32 °C (90 °F), with minima generally around 21 °C (70 °F).

In July, temperatures show a wider range, from 31 °C (88 °F) in the north to around 19 °C (66 °F) in the south, where minima can be as low as 5 °C (41 °F) in Alice Springs in June and July.

Climate variability

The above generalisations, however, mask the immense variability of the climate throughout the whole region. With the exception of the extreme north of the Northern Territory, rainfall variability throughout Northern Australia is quite markedly higher than most comparable climates in other continents. [2] For example, at Charters Towers, the rainfall over the wet season can vary from less than 100 millimetres (3.9 in) in 1901/1902 to over 2,000 millimetres (79 in) in 1973/1974. The chief cause of this very high variability is erratic tropical cyclones, which occur from December to April and in many places can deliver as much as 350 millimetres (14 in) of rain over a day or two, causing extremely large floods in the region's rivers. For example, in April 1898, a tropical cyclone gave 740 millimetres (29 in) in one day at Whim Creek in the Pilbara, but for the whole of 1924 that same station recorded only 4 millimetres (0.16 in) for the whole year. Tropical cyclones may cross the coast anywhere in Northern Australia but are most frequent between Derby and Onslow on the west side and between Cooktown and Rockhampton on the east. Inland, variability of rainfall is related to the penetration of the summer monsoon, with high rainfall in seasons like 1973/1974, 1975/1976 and from 1998 to 2001 when the monsoon is most powerful.

Derby, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Derby is a town in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. At the 2016 census, Derby had a population of 3,325 with 47.2% of Aboriginal descent. Along with Broome and Kununurra, it is one of only three towns in the Kimberley to have a population over 2,000. Located on King Sound, Derby has the highest tides in Australia, with the peak differential between low and high tide reaching 11.8 metres.

Onslow, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

Onslow is a coastal town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, 1,386 kilometres (861 mi) north of Perth. It has a population of 848 people and is located within the Shire of Ashburton local government area.

Cooktown, Queensland Town in Queensland, Australia

Cooktown is a town and locality in the Shire of Cook, Queensland, Australia. Cooktown is located about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) north of Brisbane and 328 kilometres (204 mi) north of Cairns, by road. Cooktown is about 857 kilometres (533 mi) south of Cape York by road. At the time of the 2016 census, Cooktown had a population of 2,631.

Climate change has seen increases of up to fifty percent in annual rainfall since 1967 over the western half of Australia's tropics, but has not seen any increase over the east. The increase over the west is sometimes attributed to aerosol pollution over industrialising areas of China and India, but may be related to global warming.

Frosts are common in the southern inland during the winter, but in some years, such as 1998, they are much less frequent due to the recent incidence of warm pools in the Indian Ocean.

Soils

Except in the Lake Eyre Basin and adjacent areas to the east, the soils of Northern Australia are quite remarkable in global terms for their low fertility and difficulty of working.[ citation needed ] Most of them consist chiefly of hard laterite developed during period of climate much more humid than even that of Darwin today. Since there has been no mountain building in the region since the Precambrian and no glaciation since the Carboniferous, the region's soils have generally been under continuous weathering without renewal for over 250 million years, as against less than ten thousand for most soils in Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand which have been formed from recent mountain building or glacial scouring of the land.

This immensely long weathering time means that nutrient levels in Northern Australian soils are exceptionally low because practically all soluble minerals have long been weathered out. The major constituents of most soils in Northern Australia are iron and aluminium oxides, both of which are not only very insoluble but also serve to reduce the soil pH and remove phosphorus from the soil as insoluble iron and aluminium phosphates. The insolubility of these metal oxides also serves, under the extremely harsh conditions during the dry season in the north and generally in the south, to create massive sheets which are impossible to plough.[ citation needed ]

In the Lake Eyre Basin, deposition from volcanic regions to the east has produce cracking clay soils of quite high fertility which are still often fairly low in phosphorus but have very good levels of potassium, calcium and sulfur. These soils provide the best grassland for grazing in the region. The youthful, volcanic Wet Tropics has a number of areas of fertile alluvial soils that support intensive horticulture.[ citation needed ]

Flora and fauna

The extreme soil poverty of most of Northern Australia has the effect of confining large herbivores such as the kangaroo to the better soil in the dry grasslands since they cannot digest the extreme poor fodder from the northern monsoonal regions. However, the frequency of fires during the desiccating dry season from May to September means that forests cannot establish themselves except in sheltered places. This has created a unique type of tropical savanna environment in which fires play a crucial role in elevating the extremely low nutrient levels and aiding growth during the wet season.

The many large rivers of the region such as the Mitchell, Gilbert-Einasleigh, South and East Alligator, Daly, Ord and Fitzroy support populations of the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles, which are by far the best-known animals of the region. There are also a number of species of python. Further south, where rivers are not adequate to support crocodiles, there exist a number of quite unique lizard species.

The Wet Tropics, like all tropical rainforests, is very rich in unique species, and importantly contains some of the most primitive flowering plants in the world.

Economy

The erratic climate and extreme soil poverty have defied all attempts to develop large-scale agriculture in any part of Northern Australia apart from the Wet Tropics, where sugar cane and banana growing is a major industry, and the Lake Eyre Basin and surrounding areas where the dominant activity is rearing of sheep and beef cattle on extremely large properties. Despite the relatively fertile soils, land values owing to the extremely variable climate are very low. Beef cattle are raised elsewhere in the Northern Territory and Kimberley, but the quality of meat is very low because animals are slaughtered at quite an old age compared to cattle elsewhere in the world.

The geological factors that make Northern Australia's soils so unsuited to traditional agriculture, however, make it extremely rich in ores of abundant, insoluble lithophile metals such as aluminium, iron and uranium. It has the world's largest deposits of all these metals, and as less reactive chalcophile metals have been depleted Northern Australia has become very important to the economies of mineral-poor Asian nations. It was Northern Australian iron ore that fed the Japanese post-war economic miracle and the Four Tigers of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the government of Robert Menzies attempted to develop farming in Northern Australia, but pests made this impossible even when varieties of rice suited to the soils were developed. Today, however, sugar cane growing has expanded into the Ord River basin without surpassing cattle and tourism as the main industries of the region.

Proposals for development of Northern Australia

'Grand northern Australian development dreams are nearly as old as the nation itself and have repeatedly failed to materialise.' [3]

Proponents for the development of Northern Australia have been found since before Federation and include:

The latest iteration of these proposals is found in the Our North Our Future: White Paper On Developing Northern Australia published by the Abbott Government on 18 June 2015. [7] [8]

See also

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Tropics region of the Earth surrounding the Equator

The tropics are the region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. They are delimited in latitude by The Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.4″ (or 23.43678°) N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere at 23°26′12.4″ (or 23.43678°) S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth. The tropics are also referred to as the tropical zone and the torrid zone. The tropics include all the areas on the Earth where the Sun contacts a point directly overhead at least once during the solar year - thus the latitude of the tropics is roughly equal to the angle of the Earth's axial tilt.

Tropical climate climate in the tropical region

A tropical climate in the Köppen climate classification is a non-arid climate in which all twelve months have mean temperatures of warmer than 18 °C (64 °F). In tropical climates there are often only two seasons: a wet season and a dry season. Tropical climates are frost-free, and changes in the solar angle are small. In tropical climates temperature remains relatively constant (hot) throughout the year. Sunlight is intense.

Marble Bar, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

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<i>Cryptostegia grandiflora</i> species of plant

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Georgina River river in Australia

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A tropical marine climate is a tropical climate that is primarily influenced by the ocean. It is usually experienced by islands and coastal areas 10° to 20° north and south of the equator. There are two main seasons in a tropical marine climate: the wet season and the dry season. The annual rainfall is 1000 to over 1500 mm. The temperature ranges from 20 °C to 35 °C. The trade winds blow all year round and are moist, as they pass over warm seas. These climatic conditions are found, for example, across the Caribbean; the eastern coasts of Brazil, Madagascar and Queensland; and many islands in tropical waters.

Gilbert River (Queensland) river in Australia

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Environment of Australia

The Australian environment ranges from virtually pristine Antarctic territory and rainforests to degraded industrial areas of major cities. Forty distinct ecoregions have been identified across the Australian mainland and islands.

Climate of Australia

Australia's climate is governed mostly by its size and by the hot, sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt. This moves north and south with the seasons. The climate is variable, with frequent droughts lasting several seasons, thought to be caused in part by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Australia has a wide variety of climates due to its large geographical size. The largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid. Only the south-east and south-west corners have a temperate climate and moderately fertile soil. The northern part of the country has a tropical climate, varying between tropical rainforests, grasslands and desert.

Tropical savanna climate

Tropical savanna climate or tropical wet and dry climate is a type of climate that corresponds to the Köppen climate classification categories "Aw" and "As". Tropical savanna climates have monthly mean temperatures above 18 °C (64 °F) in every month of the year and typically a pronounced dry season, with the driest month having less than 60 mm of precipitation and also less than 100 – [total annual precipitation {mm}/25] of precipitation.

Bulloo River river in Queensland, Australia

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In Australia, the Federation Drought is the name given to a prolonged period of drought that occurred around the time of Federation in 1901.

The 1950 rainfall records for the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland reported probably the most remarkable record high rainfall totals ever recorded anywhere in the continent. Averaged over both of these states, 1950 is clearly the wettest year since adequate records became available circa 1885. Queensland recorded a statewide average rainfall of around 1,125 millimetres (44.3 in) as against a mean since 1885 of around 640 millimetres (25.2 in), whilst New South Wales recorded around 930 millimetres (36.6 in) as against an instrumental mean around 520 millimetres (20.5 in). Australia's wettest town, Tully also recorded its highest annual rainfall total in 1950 with 7,898.0 millimetres (310.9 in).

Between 1979 and 1983 almost all of eastern Australia was affected by a major drought.

Humid subtropical climate category in the Köppen climate classification system

A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents, generally between latitudes 25° and 35° and are located poleward from adjacent tropical climates.

The 1911–16 Australian drought consisted of a series of droughts that affected various regions of Australia between the years of 1911 and 1916. Most of the dry spells during this period can be related to three El Niño events in 1911, 1913 and 1914, though rainfall deficiencies actually began in northern Australia before the first of these El Niños set in and did not ease in coastal districts of New South Wales until well after the last El Niño had firmly dissipated and trends toward very heavy rainfall developed in other areas of the continent.

Earth rainfall climatology

Earth rainfall climatology Is the study of rainfall, a sub-field of Meteorology. Formally, a wider study includes water falling as ice crystals, i.e. hail, sleet, snow. The aim of rainfall climatology is to measure, understand and predict rain distribution across different regions of planet Earth, a factor of air pressure, humidity, topography, cloud type and raindrop size, via direct measurement and remote sensing data acquisition. Current technologies accurately predict rainfall 3–4 days in advance using numerical weather prediction. Geostationary orbiting satellites gather IR and visual wavelength data to measure realtime localised rainfall by estimating cloud albedo, water content, and the corresponding probability of rain. Geographic distribution of rain is largely governed by climate type, topography and habitat humidity. In mountainous areas, heavy precipitation is possible where upslope flow is maximized within windward sides of the terrain at elevation. On the leeward side of mountains, desert climates can exist due to the dry air caused by compressional heating. The movement of the monsoon trough, or intertropical convergence zone, brings rainy seasons to savannah climes. The urban heat island effect leads to increased rainfall, both in amounts and intensity, downwind of cities. Global warming may also cause changes in the precipitation pattern globally, including wetter conditions at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, and drier conditions in parts of the subtropics and middle latitudes. Precipitation is a major component of the water cycle, and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the planet. Approximately 505,000 cubic kilometres (121,000 cu mi) of water falls as precipitation each year; 398,000 cubic kilometres (95,000 cu mi) of it over the oceans. Given the Earth's surface area, that means the globally averaged annual precipitation is 990 millimetres (39 in). Climate classification systems such as the Köppen climate classification system use average annual rainfall to help differentiate between differing climate regimes.

Seasonal tropical forest

Seasonal tropical forest: also known as moist deciduous, semi-evergreen seasonal, tropical mixed or monsoon forests, typically contain a range of tree species: only some of which drop some or all of their leaves during the dry season. This tropical forest is classified under the Walter system as (ii) tropical climate with high overall rainfall concentrated in the summer wet season and cooler “winter” dry season: representing a range of habitats influenced by monsoon (Am) or tropical wet savannah (Aw) climates. Drier forests in the Aw climate zone are typically deciduous and placed in the Tropical dry forest biome: with further transitional zones (ecotones) of savannah woodland then tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands.

References

  1. Willcocks, Jacqui; Queensland's rainfall history: graphs of rainfall averages, 1880-1988; published 1991 by Queensland Department of Primary Industries
  2. Geographical Patterning of Interannual Rainfall Variability in the Tropics and Near-Tropics
  3. James Glenday, (19 June 2015), 'Northern Australia white paper: Government unveils development blueprint for "economic powerhouse"', Australian Broadcasting Commission, retrieved 17 October 2015
  4. Beddie, B. (1988). "Pearce, Sir George Foster (1870 - 1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography . Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  5. Rinehart, Georgina (2013), Northern Australia and then some : changes we need to make our country rich, Melbourne, Victoria Executive Media, ISBN   978-1-921345-25-8
  6. "Home page". Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision. Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  7. "Our North Our Future: White Paper On Developing Northern Australia" (PDF). Australian Government. 2015.
  8. Massola, James (18 June 2015). "Northern Australia white paper to create 'economic powerhouse': Tony Abbott". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

Further reading