The Sydney area has been inhabited by indigenous Australians since the Upper Paleolithic period.The first British settlers arrived in 1788 to found Sydney as a penal colony, the first European settlement in Australia. Since convict transportation ended in the mid-19th century, the city has transformed from a colonial outpost into a major global cultural and economic centre. The population of Sydney at the time of the 2011 census was 4.39 million, 1.5 million of which were born overseas, representing many different nationalities and making Sydney one of the most multicultural cities in the world. There are more than 250 different languages spoken in Sydney and about one-third of residents speak a language other than English at home.
Sydney has an advanced market economy with strengths in finance, manufacturing and tourism. Its gross regional product was $337 billion in 2013, the largest in Australia. There is a significant concentration of foreign banks and multinational corporations in Sydney and the city is promoted as Asia Pacific’s leading financial hub. In addition to hosting events such as the 2000 Summer Olympics, millions of tourists come to Sydney each year to see the city’s landmarks. Sydney is also a gateway to Australia for many international visitors. Its natural features include Sydney Harbour, the Royal National Park, Bondi Beach, and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Man-made attractions such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge are also well known to international visitors.
The first people to inhabit the area now known as Sydney were indigenous Australians having migrated from northern Australia and before that from southeast Asia. Radiocarbon dating suggests human activity occurred in and around Sydney for at least 30,000 years.However, numerous Aboriginal stone tools found in Western Sydney’s gravel sediments were dated from 45,000 to 50,000 years BP,which would indicate that there was human settlement in Sydney earlier than thought.
The earliest British settlers called them Eora people. “Eora” is the term the indigenous population used to explain their origins upon first contact with the British. Its literal meaning is “from this place”. Prior to the arrival of the British there were 4,000 to 8,000 native people in Sydney from as many as 29 different clans.
Sydney Cove from Port Jackson to Petersham was inhabited by the Cadigal clan. The principal language groups were Darug, Guringai, and Dharawal. The earliest Europeans to visit the area noted that the indigenous people were conducting activities such as camping and fishing, using trees for bark and food, collecting shells, and cooking fish.
Development has destroyed much of the city’s history including that of the first inhabitants. There continues to be examples of rock art and engravings located in the protected Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.The first meeting between the native people and the British occurred on 29 April 1770 when Lieutenant James Cook landed at Botany Bay on the Kurnell Peninsula and encountered the Gweagal clan.He noted in his journal that they were confused and somewhat hostile towards the foreign visitors.Cook was on a mission of exploration and was not commissioned to start a settlement. He spent a short time collecting food and conducting scientific observations before continuing further north along the east coast of Australia and claiming the new land he had discovered for Britain.
Under the Köppen–Geiger classification, Sydney has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) with warm summers, cool winters and uniform rainfall throughout the year.The weather is moderated by proximity to the ocean, and more extreme temperatures are recorded in the inland western suburbs. The warmest months are January and February, with an average air temperature range at Observatory Hill of 18.7–25.9 °C (65.7–78.6 °F) for January and 18.8–25.8 °C (65.8–78.4 °F) for February. An average of 14.9 days a year have temperatures at or above 30 °C (86 °F).
In winter, temperatures rarely drop below 5 °C (41 °F) in coastal areas. The coldest month is July, with an average range of 8.1–16.3 °C (46.6–61.3 °F). Rainfall is fairly evenly spread through the year, but is slightly higher during the first half of the year. The average annual rainfall, with moderate to low variability, is 1,213 mm (47.76 in), with rain falling on an average of 143.8 days a year.Snowfall was last reported in the Sydney City area in 1836, while a fall of graupel, or soft hail, mistaken by many for snow, in July 2008, has raised the possibility that the 1836 event was not snow, either.Extreme temperatures have ranged from 45.8 °C (114.4 °F) on 18 January 2013 to 2.1 °C (35.8 °F) on 22 June 1932, the lowest recorded minimum at Observatory Hill.At the Sydney Airport station, extremes have ranged from 46.4 to −0.1 °C (115.5 to 31.8 °F).
The city is rarely affected by cyclones, although remnants of ex-cyclones do affect the city. The El Niño–Southern Oscillation plays an important role in determining Sydney’s weather patterns: drought and bushfire on the one hand, and storms and flooding on the other, associated with the opposite phases of the oscillation. Many areas of the city bordering bushland have experienced bushfires, these tend to occur during the spring and summer. The city is also prone to severe hail storms and wind storms. One such storm was the 1999 hailstorm, which severely damaged Sydney’s eastern and city suburbs. The storm produced massive hailstones of at least 9 cm (3.5 in) in diameter and resulting in insurance losses of around A$1.7 billion in less than five hours.Sydney experiences an urban heat island effect,. This makes certain parts of the city more vulnerable to extreme heat, particularly the west.