Climate and seasons

Uluru is in the semi arid zone of Central Australia. The weather is extreme, rainfall is difficult to predict and the seasons are diverse. The average rainfall at Uluru is 291 millimetres per year.

Seasons

Anangu have their own seasons to define and describe changes in weather and the availability of food.

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Anangu don't go by Piranpa dates, we only go by our own seasons.... We know which fruits and foods we get during our seasons - that's what is important to us.
Barbara Tjikatu

Piriyakutu/piriya piriya (usually August/September)

This is when the piriya comes - a warm steady wind from the north and west. Animals breed, food plants flower, fruit and seed. Hibernating reptiles come out and the honey grevillea is in bloom. This is a good time for hunting kangaroo.

Mai wiyaringkupai/kuli (around December)

There is not much food around at this time. This is the hottest season. There is Marutjara (storm clouds) and lightning, but little rain. Lightning strikes can start fires.

Itjanu/inuntji (usually January-March)

This is when utawari (overcast clouds) usually bring rain. During this season the food plants flower. If the rains are good there is plenty of fruit and seed. The general flow of the weather is from west to east, though storms can come in from other directions, frequently steering from the northwest with an approaching change. Puffy stratocumulus clouds appear on the western horizon and move east quickly covering the sky. About ten minutes before a storm hits, the wind picks up and the temperature drops.

Wanitjunkupai (usually April, May)

The beginning of the cold weather and this is when the park's reptiles hibernate. Tjuntalpa clouds start around April but usually don't bring rain. They come from the south, mainly by westerly winds. Tjuntalpa sit low over the hills until late in the day.

Wari (late May, June, July)

The cold time, when there is nyinnga (frost) and kulyar-kulyarpa (mist or dew) every morning but little rain. Frosts are common during winter when high pressure systems move through the area combining cooler dry air with nocturnal radiation. The frosts cure the grasses, drying and preserving them and this dry fuel feeds fires ignited during the early summer.

Temperature

The ocean, which is over 1,000 kilometres away in any direction, does not influence the temperature nor is it moderated by clouds. This results in considerable heating of the earth's surface during the day and considerable cooling at night.

The highest temperature recorded by the weather station was 45.5 degrees Celsius on 17 February 1992.

Rainfall

About 70 percent of the Australia continent is arid and Uluru is located roughly near the middle of the semi arid centre. The driest region in the arid zone surrounds Lake Eyre, further to the south, where the annual rainfall is only 12 centimetres. The long-term average annual rainfall at Uluru is about 291 millimetres, yet seasonal and annual rainfalls are extremely variable. Rain may fall at any time of the year, however heavy rains are more likely between November and March. At this time of year, large tropical depressions may move across the continet causing heavy rains to sweep inland across the arid zone. The average annual evaporation rate is high at approximately 280 centimetres. In such a dry environment prolonged droughts may be frequent and extreme. The longest drought on record ended in 1965 and lasted six and a half years. The lowest recorded annual rainfall is 82 millimetres in 1965 and the highest 935 millimetres in 1974.

Humidity

The average relative humidity throughout the region is markedly lower than in coastal zones. Seasonally, humidity recording are almost the inverse of temperature and are highest in winter and lowest in summer. The air is usually very dry and the humidity normally drops as the temperature rises.