Aboriginal artists have depicted Lightning Dreaming as part of the Water Dreaming story, reflecting the importance of rainstorms in the ecology of their country, filling waterholes and replenishing the country.
Lightning is part of the powers of nature that bring rain to country, and a powerful force that also causes bushfires in open savannah country.
Australia’s Wet Season
In the north of Australia, tropical rainstorms and monsoonal conditions prevail over the summer. During this time of year, locally known as the Wet Season, cyclones and electrical storms bring torrential rains over the land. Lightning is one of the first signs of an approaching storm, followed by gusting winds as the storm front moves over the land.
The majority of the rains fall during the hot and humid summer months, which causes the grasses, vines and shrubs to grow dramatically, sometimes up to several metres in a few months. All the vegetation across the land is lush and green, which also leads to the prolific growth of animal numbers and thousands of insects, followed by frogs and then by snakes. The whole food chain becomes very active during this time.
Further south from the tropical zones of Australia are the drier sub-tropical regions and savannah plains. Here the vegetation is more based around grasses and small trees that do not grow as lush during the summer months. The lightning can be part of electrical storms that do not bring rain. With open, dry grass country, dry lightning strikes can cause bushfires where they hit the open countryside. With high temperatures and windy conditions, the bush fires can sweep across the country at a rapid rate.
Lightning and Fire
The plant life of Australia has adapted to fire conditions over tens of thousands of years, many of the fires caused by lightning strikes. Regenerations of plants species have come to rely on fire to open the seed pods and begin the next stage of growth for plants.
Lightning Dreaming Artists
Artist Sarrita King and her sister Tarisse King create images of the tropical lightning storms they saw while growing up in Darwin in the Northern Territory. They evokes the flashing colours and fine tracery of lines seen in the lightning storms. Elizabeth Marks Nakamarra creates the zig-zag patterns observed in the lightning storms and makes vibrant patterns based on these structures.