Life in the Tropics
Kakadu is located in the tropics, between 12° and 14° south of the Equator. The climate is monsoonal, characterised by two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The 'build up' describes the transition between the dry and the wet. During the dry season (from April/May to September), dry southerly and easterly trade winds predominate. Humidity is relatively low and rain is unusual. At Jabiru, the average maximum temperature for June-July is 32 °C. During the 'build up' (October to December) conditions can be extremely uncomfortable with high temperatures and high humidity. However, 'build up' storms are impressive and lightning strikes are frequent. In fact, the Top End of Australia records more lightning strikes per year than any other place on earth. At Jabiru the average maximum temperature for October is 37.5 °C.
The wet season (January to March/April) is characterised by warm temperatures and, as one would expect, rain. Most of the rain is associated with monsoonal troughs formed over Southeast Asia, although occasionally tropical cyclones produce intense heavy rain over localised areas. At Jabiru, the average maximum temperature for January is 33 °C.Annual rainfall in Kakadu National Park ranges from 1,565 mm in Jabiru to 1,300 mm in the Mary River region.
Most non Aboriginal people really only refer to the rain and dry seasons, but Aboriginal people Bininj/Mungguy identify as many as six seasons in the Kakadu region:
- Gunumeleng - mid-October to late December, pre-monsoon storm season with hot weather and building thunderstorms in the afternoons
- Gudjeuk - from January to March, monsoon season with thunderstorms, heavy rain, and flooding; the heat and humidity generate an explosion of plant and animal life
- Banggerreng - April, the "knock 'em down storm" season where floodwater recedes but violent, windy storms knock down grasses
- Yekke - from May to mid-June, relatively cool with low humidity, the Aboriginal people historically started burning the woodlands in patches to 'clean the country' and encourage new growth for grazing animals
- Wurrgeng - from mid-June to mid-August, the cold weather season with low humidity; most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out
- Gurrung - from mid-August to mid-October, hot dry weather with ever shrinking billabongs.
Periods of torrential rain and long dry spells mean that Kakadu can change its appearance according to the season, so is a place deserving of more than one visit.