Australian Professor Thinks Oz Needs Two New Seasons: Sprinter and Sprummer

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
April 1 2014 3:29 PM

Australian Professor Thinks Oz Needs Two New Seasons: Sprinter and Sprummer

159098236-woman-holds-her-child-as-sydneysiders-and-tourists-cool
Summer in Sydney. Or maybe it's sprummer.

Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

American readers may have some choice, unprintable names they’d like to call the cold, slushy, so-called “spring” we’ve been having on the East Coast. But in general, there’s little grumbling about the four-season cycle we’re all familiar with.

But professor Tim Entwisle, scientist and director of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, thinks that four seasons are just not enough for Australia. In his upcoming book, Sprinter and Sprummer: Australia's Changing Seasons, he’s suggesting that the country change it up and replace spring with “sprinter,” an early spring, and “sprummer,” a later, warmer one, on top of the traditional summer, autumn, and winter. By his formulation, in Australia’s southern states, summer would be four months long and all other seasons two months in length. But why stop at five seasons? Entwisle told the Melbourne Age that the country could have up to 11 seasons, although he admits that could be “impractical.”

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Along with the common cold, a population of a criminal bent, and a taste for anachronistic accolades, Australia also inherited from Europe a set of four arbitrary and somewhat unsuitable seasons. As in the United Kingdom, each Australian season consists of three months according to the meteorological calendar, changing on the first of December, March, June, and September.

Because it’s so large in comparison to the United Kingdom, Australia has six climatic zones, which has already caused some regions of Oz to give up on the northern hemisphere’s seasonal delineations. In the north of Australia, where the climate is tropical, the four seasons have been replaced by two simple and more appropriate cycles—the wet or monsoon season and the dry season.

Australian Aboriginals also have various formulations of the seasons depending on the character of their region. Almost all have more than four seasons, and some up to seven depending on changes in weather, animals, and plants life. For example, in the Gariwerd area of southwestern Victoria (also known as the Grampians), the traditional Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung people have six seasons: gwangal moronn, season of honey bees (autumn); chinnup, season of cockatoos (winter); larneuk, season of nesting birds (early spring); petyan, season of wild flowers (late spring); ballambar, season of butterflies (early summer); and kooyang, season of eels (late summer).

By adding “sprinter” and “sprummer,” Entwisle thinks Australia’s seasons will become more scientifically accurate and the country better able to identify the effects of climate change, including the phenomenon of increasingly early springs that have been noticed worldwide (also known as “spring creep”).

“Climate change will have an impact on seasons but we should get our seasons lined up with the country we live in,” he suggested to the Age. “We already see spring coming earlier and with climate change we might see further changes.” The spring of 2013 was Australia’s warmest on record, at 1.57 degrees Celsius (about 2.83 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average. And while warming has been recorded year-round, of all the seasons, it has been taking place the fastest in spring.

Given the growing effects of global warming, a more flexible conception of the seasons seems appropriate—but there must be something better than “sprinter” and “sprummer.” Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ariel Bogle, a contributor to Future Tense, is an associate editor at New America.

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