By April 2019, driest-ever rainfall totals occur at durations of 15, 18, 24 and 30 months. The total for 12 months is the second driest for that duration.
This contour plot shows the progress of the drought at Manilla up to April 2019. Colours show rainfall shortages as percentiles. Dates plot along the top, and durations down the side.
One month rainfall totals (on the top row)
April 2019, which had no rain, followed eight months without serious monthly rainfall shortages. Months of serious rainfall shortage (light brown) had come earlier, in May, June and July 2018, and also in September 2017.
Shortages lasting less than one year (rows 2 to 9)
As the effects of low monthly rainfall added up, extreme shortages appeared (dark brown). That is, rainfall totals in the lowest 1% of the historical record.
By June 2018, the 2-month and 3-month totals were already extreme shortages. Similarly, by July, the 3-month, 4-month, and 5-month totals were all extreme shortages. By September 2018, extreme shortages extended as far as 9-month totals. That total, adding up the nine months from January to September 2018, included only one month (February) that had rainfall above normal.
In these shorter durations, extreme shortages were rare after September 2018. March 2019 included no shortages (not even “serious” ones) for durations from 2 months up to 6 months. However, April saw some serious shortages return.
Shortages of 1-year to 3-year duration (rows 12 to 36)
By August 2018, an extreme 15-month shortage appeared. The 15-month total then included not only the dry months of winter 2018, but also the dry month of September 2017. By September 2018, the 15-month total became the driest on record (400 mm). By October four totals in this group (12-, 15-, 18-, and 24-month totals) were extreme shortages. That was true again in January 2019. By that time, some dry months in 2017 were excluded, but dry months in the current summer were included.
In February 2019, as the four extreme shortages of the previous month persisted, the 12-month total became the driest ever (271 mm). March also had four extreme shortages in this group, but now they were at 12, 15, 24 and 30 months. The 24-month total (769 mm) was the second-driest on record and the 30-month total (1078 mm) equal driest.
April was much worse: lowest-ever or second-lowest values appeared for all five durations from 12 months to 30 months.
The 2002 extreme drought
A similar graph was posted in “The 2002 drought contour chart”. It is clear that, in that case, extreme shortages did not extend through the 15- to 30-month durations that have the most extreme shortages now.
A line graph for April 2019
A profile of the rainfall status for April 2019 reveals that extreme shortages also exist at durations much longer than shown in this contour graph: durations of six years and seven years. Severe shortages even occur at durations of ten years and twenty years.
Data and method
This kind of graph simply displays the time sequence, month by month, of rainfall shortages that I have displayed on line graphs prepared for each month. In the post for the most recent line graph (April 2019) I have described my method of analysis and its limitations.