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Wet and Dry Seasons

Monsoonal Climate

Seasons in the Top End of the Northern Territory are generally known as the wet and the dry.

Aboriginal people of this region recognise more than just two seasons. Their seasonal calendar plays a very important role in traditional life.

Wet Season

A Kakadu wetland
A Top End Wetland
Lush plant life and lots and lots of water. This wetland is in Kakadu, at the end of the wet season. Photo by G Crane.

Between October and April warm, moist monsoonal northwest winds bring high humidity and a rainfall which gives the wet season its name. Darwin can receive more than 1500 mm (59 in) of rain in a single wet season.

October and November are the transition months and are often referred to as the 'build up' because a lot of moisture builds up in the air making it feel very hot and heavy. Generally in the build up months it does not actually rain.

Dry Season

Between May and September low humidity and rainfall brought on by dry southeast winds create the dry season.

During the dry season many waterholes and creeks dry up completely, and grasslands turn brown. Bushfires are common in the Top End in the dry. These fires are often started by Aboriginal people, continuing a practice going back many thousands of years to manage the fuel load on the land (to try to prevent really big fires) and to drive animals so they can be caught for food.

Other Seasons

The yearly weather cycle is more than wet and dry, and includes the 'build up', a period before the wet season that brings high humidity and clouds but no rain. The build up usually starts in October and runs into December, until the rain starts to fall.