Lightning season cracks over Kakadu

Lightning over Lake Jabiru | Peter Keepence

Lasting for sometimes hours at a time, breathtaking lightning shows have begun thundering across the Top End of the Northern Territory in what is known as Lightning Season.

Now is the best time to witness this seasonal spectacle which provides ample opportunities for both amateur and professional photographers, who flock to Kakadu during this time, specifically for lightning photo opportunities.

Many photographers have done lightning photo shoots around the Top End including Steve Parish, Paul Arnold, Louise Denton, Peter Keepence and Tracy Ryan.

These awe-inspiring weather phenomena should be enjoyed from a distance for safety, as the strikes can start fires – a pivotal part of the landscapes ecosystems. Fires are swiftly managed by experienced Kakadu rangers, who use blower packs, helicopters and satellite imagery where necessary.

Visitors can use the Bureau of Meteorology satellite map to locate lightning and storms and determine their size and duration.

Namarrgon (Lightning Man)

namarrgon-josieThe cultural significance of the season is found in the story of Lightning Man – or Namarrgon (pronounced narm-arr-gon).

An important ancestor, Namarrgon is painted in the shelters at the Anbangbang Gallery at Burrunguy (Nourlangie Rock) in Kakadu National Park. He is depicted with what looks like electric power coming out of his head and feet, and sits waiting for storm season.

Read more about Namarrgon’s stroy on our blog or watch the ABC’s video about his story.

Kunemeleng – pre-monsoon storm season

Six seasons are recognised in Kakadu, based on thousands of years of Aboriginal knowledge.

Kunumeleng is the pre-monsoon storm season which spans from mid-October to late December, but can last from a few weeks to several months.

As the hottest season, the storm clouds and lightning bring little rain. This was traditionally when Aboriginal people moved camp from the floodplains to the stone country for shelter.

As the air becomes more and more humid, thunderstorms build in the afternoons and rain on the dry floodplains brings rapid growth. As the streams begin to run, acidic water that washes from the floodplains can cause fish to die in billabongs.

The commencement of the wet season is an opportunity for country to rest and revive with the tropical rains.

And while Uluru doesn’t have a lightning season like Kakadu, storms can occur any time of the year and are unpredictable.

Lightning at Uluru | Damien Hill

Top 4 places to view Kakadu’s light shows

Image credit Peter Keepence

Pete Cotsell, Kakadu National Park manager