IN no other continent are the effects of climate so clearly exhibited as in Australia. If the geographer were permitted to design a region for testing the control of climate over settlement he could hardly do better than copy Australia. It is a compact region with none of the long peninsulas or deep arms of the sea which complicate affairs in Europe, Asia and America. It has the most uniform topography of any continent and so is much simpler in structure than its nearest analogue, Africa. In fine, it is like an oval blackboard furnished to the student so that he may proceed to evaluate the climatic factor.

Australia has an area of just under three million square miles -- much the same as the United States. It has an average elevation of about a thousand feet, and indeed the western half of the continent is a low plateau almost all about this height. The eastern half is divided into two longitudinal belts. The coastal belt is formed of highlands of which only small portions rise above 2,000 feet, while the summit of the continent (in the southeast) is only 7,328 feet. Between the western plateau and the eastern highlands are two lowland areas separated by a low indefinite divide. The great artesian area occupies the northern moiety, with an average height of about 500 feet; and the Murray Basin the southern moiety, with much the same average height.

Right across this low continent extends the Tropic of Capricorn, so disposed that about 40 percent of the land is in the tropics and 60 percent in the temperate region. Thus a large portion is much hotter than any region of the United States. Brisbane has about the average temperature of Jacksonville, Sydney resembles Wilmington, N.C., and Melbourne is like Washington, D. C. Wherever the Tropic passes over wide belts of land we find that the latter is very arid in those portions which lie in the centre or toward the western shores. Hence the Trade-Wind Deserts. In the case of the United States this unfavorable position is luckily occupied by the Gulf of Mexico, but Australia is so disposed that the Tropic cuts across its broadest extent. For this reason the arid environment characterizes more than half of Australia. Indeed the map of the well-known climatologist Koeppen shows over one million square miles in Australia as desert. In the United States Koeppen places in the same category only about 200,000 square miles.

As regards rain, Australia lies in the region between the Equatorial rain-belt and the Antarctic belt. These belts move with the sun, so that in our Australian summer (December to February) the equatorial rain-storms affect northern Australia. In our winter (June to August) the sun has moved far north and the Antarctic belt is covering the south coasts. The centre and west of Australia are benefited by neither belt and are consequently arid. The east coast is visited by other types of rain-storms, especially in the autumn, and also participates in the rains mentioned above. Hence it has a fairly uniform rain régime.

We may now turn to an examination of how these climatic controls have determined settlement in Australia.[i]

There is a coastal belt of forest-land which of course coincides with the uniform rainfall belt. This extends down the east coast from Cooktown to Melbourne. Another forest area of valuable timber occurs in the extreme southwest corner. (There are no true forests of any size in the northern coastlands, for here rain rarely falls from April to November.) Since dairies and mixed farming need a fairly uniform rainfall they have naturally developed in these forest belts. In the tropical portion (along the east coast of Queensland) is grown the Australian sugar crop. Practically nothing but white labor is used, and although it is more costly than the Kanaka (Polynesian) labor used a few decades ago, Australians appear to be satisfied to pay more for their white-grown sugar. Dairying and the growing of bananas and similar fruits are other industries in this region.

The temperate region of uniform rainfall contains the densest population in Australia. Out of the seventy largest towns about fifty-six are situated in this region. In the north, maize and sugar are the chief crops; dairying, fruit raising and mixed farming are the activities of the middle portion; while timber, oats and some sheep and wheat are produced in the southern portion.

Inland of the forested belt lie the Savanas, or grassland regions. These merge into the forests on their wetter side. Here is the great wheat belt which is slightly on the drier (inner) side of the densest sheep belt in Australia. Close settlement finishes along the inner arid margin of the wheat belt. We pass directly into country entirely devoted to sheep or cattle, and the density of population falls off very rapidly. This belt generally contains far fewer sheep or cattle than is the case where mixed farming occurs. Even the wet tropical Savanas of the north have a negligible population -- for they are only suited for cattle, in view of the long drought throughout autumn, winter and spring.

Within this pastoral belt lie two large regions (of about 500,000 and 100,000 square miles respectively) where there are no sheep or cattle and consequently not a single settler. These conditions are not due to lack of knowledge of their capacities, for most of the borders have been settled for forty years. Nor are they due to any very great inaccessibility, for the elevation is almost uniform throughout, and the environment consists of vegetated sand dunes, rocky plains or plains covered with rock-waste.

In this brief discussion of the climatic control of Australia's resources it has not been necessary to consider mineral wealth, for with the exception of mines in the Broken Hill and the Kalgoorlic regions it has not led to any notable settlement in arid Australia. Moreover this sort of settlement only endures as a rule for a score of years. Our very valuable coalfields all lie in the belt of fairly uniform rainfall.

In conclusion, then, it may be stated that 42 percent of the continent of Australia is arid: of this about 20 percent has so far proved useless for stock, while about 22 percent is capable of sparse stock occupation. Another 34 percent is good pastoral country. About 21 percent is fair temperate farming country, though containing almost all the rugged mountain areas. Perhaps 4 or 5 percent, in the northeast, may be used for tropical agriculture. There is probably room in the east and south for another 20 million folk engaged in agriculture and manufacturing before any congestion can arise. Indeed this is perhaps the most promising field for settlement now available for the growing white population of the world.

[i] For the data on which this summary is based see "The Frontiers of Settlement in Australia," by Griffith Taylor, American Geographical Review, Vol. XVI, No. 1; also "Environment and Race," Oxford University Press, 1927.

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