Rainfall Shortage Jan 2000 – Mar 2019

Severe and extreme rainfall shortages Jan 2000 to Mar 2019

The current drought now has an extreme rainfall shortage of 84 months duration that must have commenced in 2012.

A new graph

This graph shows the onset, persistence, and breaking of episodes of extreme and severe rainfall shortage (droughts) at Manilla since 2000. It is a part of a graph of the complete historical record from 1884. In this case, the time axis is expanded to resolve individual months.

Complete record severe and extreme rainfall shortagesThe features of this “onset-to-breaking” kind of graph and the data analysis are explained in the post “Rainfall Shortage History: Manilla”.

Extreme shortages, up to the 1st percentile, are shown in red and severe shortages, up to the 5th percentile, are shown in grey.
The dashed line labelled “Last Good Data” is a limitation to determining cumulative rainfall deficiency. Future observations may make any point to the right of this line more extreme.

The pattern of rainfall shortages from 2000

Shortages before 2018

In 2000 there were no rainfall shortages classed as “severe”. There had been hardly any since 1994.
The drought that occurred in winter 2002 had extreme rainfall shortages at all durations from 3 months to 12 months. Severe shortages extended even further: from 2 months to 30 months. However this was a much shorter drought than six others in the history of Manilla.

Although severe rainfall shortages (grey) occurred at intervals between 2002 and 2018, they formed small clusters, mainly at short durations. Years affected were 2005, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017. By 2014, there was public concern about shortage of rainfall. Although there were few seasonal severe shortages at that time, the graph shows that there were severe shortages at durations from 12 months to 30 months through 2013 and 2014.

With the benefit of current data, we can see that severe and even extreme shortages of duration longer than 60 months were, in fact, initiated in 2012 or earlier. They were not apparent at the time, however. In October 2016, in a post “Is There Any Drought Now?”, I argued that there was no evidence of drought at that time.

An alternative expression of rainfall status during this time is a graph of smoothed rainfall anomalies in the post “17 Years of “Droughts and Flooding Rains” at Manilla”.

Shortages at 2018

Shortages of rainfall became alarming in 2018. The winter months had extreme shortages of 2-month to 6-month duration. Earlier and later dry months contributed to a 15-month extreme shortage, such as had not occurred since 1966, half a century earlier.
After November 2018 none of the short-term rainfall totals for durations less than nine months has been even a severe shortage. In other respects, the drought has deepened. As recent monthly rainfall values have scarcely risen above normal, durations of severe or extreme shortage have become longer and longer. As at March 2019, extreme shortages prevail at 30 months, 72 months and 84 months. Severe shortages prevail at even longer durations, now up to 120 months (10 years).

Other Current Graphs

Other graphs of the drought, current to March 2019 data, are in two posts: “March Rain Leaves Drought Extreme”, and “Rainfall Shortage Sequence 03/2019”.


The Millennium Drought absent
“Rainfall Shortages” or “Droughts”?
Short droughts are worst

The Millennium Drought absent

The “Millennium Drought” was not a Great Drought at any place near Manilla. A map by the Bureau of Meteorology shows that one quarter of NSW was not involved in that drought. In the 84 months from November 2001, rainfall was not in “serious deficiency” (below the 10th percentile) in any part of NSW north-east of a line from Wollongong to Brewarrina.

“Rainfall Shortages” or “Droughts”?

Although droughts involve other factors, rainfall shortage is decisive. Some other factors, such as daily maximum temperature anomaly, vary in the same sense, Australia-wide.
Recognised times of drought at Manilla appear on this graph as extended periods of severe or extreme rainfall shortage .

Short droughts are worst

All of these graphs of rainfall shortage may seem discordant if one does not realise that rainfall shortages of a given rank, such as “extreme”, have a rainfall rate (mm/month) that increases with the duration of the period of shortage. At a given date, the shortage at a longer duration can easily be more extreme than one at a shorter duration, because the rainfall rate at the longer duration may be higher. The point is made in this post, using the case of the driest times on record.

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