Acclimatising to the Australian Winter Weather

ANZ Sept 2013Well, I’ve been talking about heatwaves all week, so it’s very strange for me to now be writing about getting used to Australian winters.

The reason?

It’s time for another reprint of one of my articles for Australia and New Zealand magazine. This one appeared in their September issue, which means I would have written it a couple of months earlier in either June or July. In other words, winter. The article was called…

The weather man

The weather man

In June 2009, on the first day of my second winter here in Australia, I wrote a post on my website explaining that during my 18 months (at the time) of living here, I pretty much only wore shorts and a T-shirt.

You can read it here:

I’m speaking from the point of view of someone living in Brisbane where winters are not really winters in the true sense. It’s subtropical, which is just how I like my tropicals. I have now just completed my sixth winter in Australia, and each and every one has been colder than the one before.

So much for global warming.

It isn’t the weather that is changing though, it’s me. I’m acclimatising to the Australia weather and now, for me, 18°C is the new cold. I have always been a shorts kind of guy and when I lived in England I had a golden rule to decide whether or not to put on long trousers or shorts before I ventured out to, say, walk the dog or go to the shops.

That rule was simply this; is the Sun out and is the temperature equal to or higher than 18°C?

If yes on both counts, put on shorts, if either is a no, grab long trousers. Now, here in Australia, temperatures of 25° to 32°C with clear blue and sunny skies are commonplace, but when the temperature drops to 20°C or below, and especially if the sun disappears behind a cloud, all of a sudden it feels quite chilly.

How can that be?

Pre-acclimatisation

I remember during my first autumn here, I was in an outside area of a pub enjoying a couple of beers and a meal. As usual, I was in shorts and T-shirt and, as it was night-time, it wasn’t very warm. Except, for me it was; I was still used to cold being really cold, I mean UK cold, I mean scraping frost off the car windscreen type of cold.

For me, 18°C at night could be classed as a balmy evening in UK terms. This “cold” was Australian cold and if Australians were cold, I wasn’t. Occasionally, others who were there would say to me “Aren’t you cold?” as they snuggled inside their zipped up jackets and enjoyed the benefits of their head to foot coverage.

No, I wasn’t, I thought, how can I be? “You haven’t acclimatised yet, have you?” they would say.
Seems I hadn’t, but I’m pretty sure I have now.

Post-acclimatisation

If I was at that same pub at the same time these days, I’m sure I would be wearing a zipped up jacket too. Because for me, these days, 18°C and below is the new cold. I caught myself looking at the outdoor thermometer late at night recently when I was feeling a bit chilly and thinking “My word, its only 14°C!” Only 14°C? Yes, I have acclimatised.

It’s worth mentioning, again, that I am talking Brisbane climate here; let’s quickly look elsewhere as at the third week of winter in Australia. Tasmania, 2 to 11° max; that’s cold. Melbourne, 3 to 14°, Sydney 10 to 16° and Perth, which is very similar to Brisbane in terms of climate, it’s 10 to 21°C. Now Darwin; current temperatures there are a low of 21°C to a high of 32°C. That’s more like it!

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Linka May 24, 2014, 6:10 pm | Link

    Well, I thought that after a year in New york, Brisbane would seem warmer, but it’s actually worse now! Cold climate PTSD? haha

    Have you been down to the Gold Coast, by the beach at night? When it’s windy it can be REALLY cold, even in summer.

    I know that saying ~10 degrees is cold may be laughable to Europeans, but it is cold for us – as Bob says, it’s acclimatization, and lifestyle.

    • BobinOz May 25, 2014, 8:15 pm | Link

      Yes, I have experienced that cold Gold Coast wind during the summer, not only at night, but sometimes just early evening when still light. It can really feel quite chilly.

      Today here in Brisbane it was 29°C, not bad for one week before winter starts; I took my socks off. I expect you would put a coat on though 🙂

  • Kymmaree January 26, 2014, 11:26 am | Link

    I have two daughters inlaw, one from Wales and one from London. Both of them will be goosebumpy and wanting jackets when we are sitting around in shorts and Tshirts. I really don’t understand that. The slightest breeze sends them scrambling for long sleeves. I think it must be psychological.

    • BobinOz January 28, 2014, 4:16 pm | Link

      And that’s without acclimatising? Very strange.

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