For most of the year being a weather forecaster in Broome would be the most boring job in Australia. It would be like a fine and sunny ground hog day with a maximum in the low thirties and an overnight minimum in the teens or low twenties. No-one bothers talking about the weather as “nice day” gets a bit boring and repetitive. People in Broome simply come to expect that the weather doesn’t change much that time of year.
Being in the north of the country, Broome is exposed to tropical and monsoonal weather patterns. A professor of tropical weather once said, “the only consistent thing about wet seasons is how inconsistent they are.” In Broome the west season spans a couple of months and creates an annual obsession with the weather generally and with rain specifically. The name “wet season” can often be deceiving, while some years Broome gets a “big wet” with lots of rain and often flash flooding in other years it can get no wet, just the build-up, heat and humidity.
While for most of the year Broome’s weather consistency leaves little to talk about, the inconsistency of the wet makes Broomies weather obsessed. When and how much rain we’ll get is the most talked about topic between December and March. Broomies have a well-founded conspiracy theory that there is a dome over Broome that prevents rain from falling on the town. The dome can often be seen on the Bureau of Meteorology’s rain radar as storms roll in from the east across Roebuck Bay and then dissipate as they near Broome. Often times the radar shows rain completely surrounding Broome for at least 20k in each direction but with the dome active and preventing any rain within a five-kilometre radius in the centre.
Feature Image by Richard Young
Broome’s rain obsession culminates in the annual “guess the first day of rain” competition, which is now hosted on Facebook, Broome Weather Group. The winner is the person who picks the date the first rainfall (of 5mm+) falls at Broome Airport. Locals also try to guess the amount of rain we will get when they can see a storm rolling in on the radar – “Quick rainfall comp. How much are we going to get from this storm approaching Broome. Be quick and drive carefully in peak hour today”. There are Facebook groups dedicated to the subject and include a multitude of storm chasing, cyclone chasing and weather watching groups and pages. Broomies time lines are full of weather facts and photos when there is rain or a storm and theories and frustrations when the dry spells without rain are prolonged.
Social media lights up during the lead up to weather events in Broome with “do you think we’ll get rain”, “shall I bring the washing in” and “I hope the dome is out of action”? Then after the weather event with “has anyone seen my dog” or “who replaces shade-sails” and “will the markets still be on this morning”. Broome’s healthy rivalry with its nearest neighbour Derby plays out with both towns wanting to claim the most rain or best storms. Here is a recent post on Facebook “What is our rainfall total, surely we are ahead of Derby now!”
This year Broome is experiencing an unusually mild wet with little rain but much milder heat and humidity than expected. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big wet, small wet or no wet, the level of obsession is exactly the same. If there are no pictures of recent storms to post on social media people simply repost images from the last big wet and reminisce.
Being in Broome during a wet season to experience a tropical storm is a something everyone should do at least once. It’s a display of the majesty of nature that will leave you in awe. Many Broomies celebrate rain after a prolonged dry spell by getting out and dancing in it, a ritual made famous by the Pigram Brothers hit “Raindancing.” One of the best places to watch storms roll in is from the Mangrove Hotel which has a ringside seat on the edge of Roebuck Bay.
You know you’re in Broome when the locals are weather obsessed.