Experts look to Australia's Aborigines
for weather help


SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) --


When the bearded dragon lizard sits upright and points its head to the sky,
it is going to rain the next day. If a flock of currawongs flies overhead you've
only got four hours to get the washing off the line.

If the queen wattle blooms heavily, bull ants abandon their tree nests for

mounds of dirt, or meat ants cover nests with tiny, heat-reflecting quartz
stones, then bushfires are coming.

Sounds like mumbo-jumbo?

Not to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, which hopes to tap into the tens

of thousands of years of Aboriginal weather knowledge to help it expand its
understanding of the island continent's harsh climate.

Aboriginal ideas about the weather can be starkly different.

Unlike the conventional European notion of four seasons -- summer, autumn,

winter and spring -- Aborigines in different parts of Australia count as little as
two or as many as six, each intimately linked to subtle changes in the local
environment.

"The bureau comes from a purely Western scientific meteorology perspective.

It is something entirely new for a weather bureau to recognize the importance
of this other weather knowledge," said bureau forecaster John O'Brien.

"Our concepts of meteorological science have a time span of several hundred

years, whereas Aboriginal culture based on weather, flora, fauna and climate
is tens of thousands of years old," O'Brien told Reuters.

The Bureau of Meteorology has launched an "Indigenous Weather" Web site

(www.bom.gov.au/iwk) mapping Aboriginal weather knowledge and plans to
keep on updating it as it documents new indigenous weather calendars.