Record 15-month Drought in 2018

The 15 months to date is the driest 15 months in the Manilla rainfall record from 1883.

Rainfall shortages August and September 2018

Graph of Rainfall Shortages

This graph shows all the present rainfall shortages at Manilla, short term and long term, in terms of percentile values. The latest values, as at the end of September, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of August, are shown by a thinner line with smaller white circles.

Changes this month

The September rainfall total of 12.5 mm was at the 18th percentile. That raised short-term totals (2-, 3-, and 4-month totals) compared with those of a month ago. However, totals fell very much lower for 5-, 6-, 9-, 15-, 18-, and 24-months.

Extreme shortages

Extreme shortages, seen less than 1% of the time since 1883, are now seen for the durations of 5, 6, 9, 15 and 18 months. This drought is now worse than the drought of 2002. In that drought the longest duration of extreme shortage was only 12 months: 307 mm (at the 0.2th percentile) from December 2001 to November 2002.

A record rainfall shortage

The 15-month total of 400 mm is the lowest in the 136-year record. It is a rate of 26.7 mm per month, 49% of normal, and at the 0.06th percentile. It beats the previous lowest 15-month total of 404 mm that was set in May 1912.
The last time that records for low rainfall were set at Manilla was nearly 50 years ago. Those records were: only 1 mm rainfall in the two months to April 1971, and only 14 mm in the four months to June 1971.

Long-term shortages

The 6-year rainfall total (3244 mm) is a severe shortage, unchanged for three months. These values are lower than any 6-year rainfall totals since 1962. When rainfall shortages of such long duration persist, rainfall does not maintain the groundwater levels or river flows required for irrigation or town supply.
A serious 20-year shortage (9.7th percentile) has developed in this month. Such a very long-term shortage has not been seen since 1949. Up to that date, the Namoi River had suffered decades of low flow, which was followed later by much higher flows. Manilla’s mean annual rainfall has been above normal from 1949 until recently.


Classes of rainfall shortage

I have adopted two classes of rainfall shortage from the classes of “Rainfall deficiency” defined by the Bureau of Meteorology in their Climate Glossary as follows:

“Serious rainfall deficiency: rainfall lies above the lowest five per cent of recorded rainfall but below the lowest ten per cent (decile range 1) for the period in question,
“Severe rainfall deficiency: rainfall is among the lowest five per cent for the period in question.
“Areas where the rainfall is lowest on record for the given time period are also shown.”

The Manilla rainfall record allows me to be more exact than the Bureau. Because the record extends back 134 years, it includes more than 1200 cumulative monthly rainfall values. I can identify percentile ranks even below the 0.1th percentile.
To the Bureau’s two classes of deficiency I add a third:

“Extreme deficiency (or extreme shortage): rainfall lies below the lowest one percent for the period in question.”


Manilla rainfall records

Manilla Post Office rain gauge, Station 055031, was read daily from 1883 to 26 March 2015. Then, for 15 months there was no official Manilla rain gauge. A Bureau of Meteorology automatic rain gauge was re-located to the museum yard and operated as Station 055031 from 23 May 2016 to 7 October 2016 (4 months). It failed, and did not operate for 5 months. After repair, the gauge was read automatically at 9 am daily as Station 055312: Manilla (Museum). It failed again after 6 months, on 24 September 2017. The web-page for Station 055312 shows that, since its repair on 15 March 2018, the gauge has been unreliable, with readings frequently missed. No readings were recorded in September 2018.
Since April 2015, I have read my rain gauge in Monash Street Manilla daily. I have used these readings when official readings are lacking. The gauge is not precise, the site does not meet specifications, and it is 1 km from the Post Office. However, the daily readings are seldom more than 3 mm higher or lower than available official Manilla readings.

Drought Sixth Month: August 2018

Rainfall status, July and August 2018.

Graph of Rainfall Shortages

This graph shows all the present rainfall shortages at Manilla, short term and long term, in terms of percentile values. The latest values, as at the end of August, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of July, are shown by a thinner line with smaller white circles.
The classes of rainfall shortage are:
• Serious shortage: below the 10th percentile;
• Severe shortage: below the 5th percentile;
• Extreme shortage: below the 1st percentile. [See note below on my usage “Extreme shortage”.]

Changes this month

Rain late in August raised the one month and two month rainfall totals out of the class of “serious shortage”. The total for August (28.2 mm) is at the 40th percentile for the month, and the total for July and August is at the 10th percentile. The three-month total, which had been an extreme shortage, fell to become only a severe shortage.

Extreme shortages

Extreme shortages, seen less than 1% of the time since 1883, are now seen for the durations of 4, 5, 6, and 15 months. Without last week’s rain, the 6 month total would have been one of the lowest ever recorded.
There is an extreme shortage at 15 months, due to low rainfall in mid-2017, in the months of July (13.2 mm), August (13.8 mm), and September (5.5 mm).

Long-term shortages

The 6-year rainfall total for August (3252 mm) is a severe shortage, only slightly above that of July (3234 mm). Both these values are lower than any 6-year rainfall totals since 1962. When rainfall shortages of such long duration persist, rainfall does not maintain the groundwater levels or river flows required for irrigation or town supply.

[A graph showing rainfall shortages to the end of September 2018 is in the later post: “Record 15-month Drought in 2018”.]


Note: The term “Extreme shortage”

I have adopted classes of rainfall shortage from the classes of “Rainfall deficiency” defined by the Bureau of Meteorology in their Climate Glossary as follows:

“Serious rainfall deficiency: rainfall lies above the lowest five per cent of recorded rainfall but below the lowest ten per cent (decile range 1) for the period in question,
“Severe rainfall deficiency: rainfall is among the lowest five per cent for the period in question.
“Areas where the rainfall is lowest on record for the given time period are also shown.”

The Manilla rainfall record allows me to be more exact than the Bureau. Because the record extends back 134 years, it includes more than 1200 cumulative monthly rainfall values. I can identify percentile ranks even below the 0.1th percentile.
To the Bureau’s two classes of deficiency I add a third:

“Extreme deficiency (or extreme shortage): rainfall lies below the lowest one percent for the period in question.”

Drought Fifth Month: July 2018

Rainfall status June and July 2018

Rainfall shortages at June and July 2018.[Note 13/8/18. The large graph above is an  amended graph. Values in mm are unchanged, but percentile values have been recalculated. The 4-month and 5-month percentile values now plot as less extreme than before. The original graph is on the right.]

Graph of Rainfall Shortages

This graph shows all the present rainfall shortages at Manilla, short term and long term, in terms of percentile values. The latest values, as at the end of July, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of June, are shown by a thinner line with smaller white circles.
The classes of rainfall shortage are:
• Serious shortage: below the 10th percentile;
• Severe shortage: below the 5th percentile;
• Extreme shortage: below the 1st percentile. [See note below on my usage “Extreme shortage”.]

[A graph showing shortages at the end of August is in a later post: “Drought Sixth Month; August 2018”.]

Extreme shortages

At Manilla, the drought is now extreme by several measures.
At the end of July 2018, rainfall shortages are extreme for 3 months (15 mm), 4 months (33 mm) and 5 months (58 mm). “Extreme shortage” means that Manilla has seen such shortages less than 1% of the time since 1883.
Since the end of June, rainfall totals have fallen lower for periods of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 months. The 5-month total fell most remarkably. It had been 121 mm, not even a “severe” shortage (below the 5th percentile), but merely a “serious” shortage (below the 10th percentile). It has now fallen to only 58 mm, which is an “extreme” shortage (below the 1st percentile). It is not much higher than the lowest ever 5-month rainfall total of 29 mm, a record set 130 years ago in 1888.

The graph makes it clear that we are now in the fifth month of an extreme drought.

Long-term shortages

At this date, there are no extreme rainfall shortages measured over periods longer than five months. However, there are some severe shortages below the fifth percentile rank. Should rainfall continue to be below average, these shortages could also become extreme. The current twelve-month total of 346 mm needs to fall only 19 mm (to 327 mm) to become an extreme shortage. The 6-year rainfall total (3234 mm) is a severe shortage lower than any since 1962. Rainfall shortages measured over periods of a year or more will not maintain groundwater levels or river flows.


Note: The term “Extreme shortage”

I have adopted classes of rainfall shortage from the classes of “Rainfall deficiency” defined by the Bureau of Meteorology in their Climate Glossary as follows:

“Serious rainfall deficiency: rainfall lies above the lowest five per cent of recorded rainfall but below the lowest ten per cent (decile range 1) for the period in question,
“Severe rainfall deficiency: rainfall is among the lowest five per cent for the period in question.
“Areas where the rainfall is lowest on record for the given time period are also shown.”

The Manilla rainfall record allows me to be more exact than the Bureau. Because the record extends back 134 years, it includes more than 1200 cumulative monthly rainfall values. I can identify percentile ranks even below the 0.1th percentile.
To the Bureau’s two classes of deficiency I add a third:

“Extreme deficiency (or extreme shortage): rainfall lies below the lowest one percent for the period in question.”

 

Short Droughts are Worst

The shorter the drought, the less rainfall there is in it. The longer the drought, the more rainfall. News reports give the false impression that hardly any rain falls during a drought, even if the drought lasts a long time. That is not true.

To prove the point, I have made graphs and a table showing the very worst droughts that Manilla ever had: the very worst short droughts, year-long droughts and 30-year droughts.

Lowest ever rainfalls

Graphs of the driest times

The first graph shows how the driest two month drought had only one millimetre of rain, while the driest longer periods had very much more, up to over 5000 mm of rain in 120 months (10 years). That may seem obvious. So long as there is a little rain in most months, the longer the period, the bigger the rainfall total. But there is more to it than that.

The second graph shows the average rate of rainfall during each worst drought: the rainfall per month. The rate is not steady as you might expect. It too becomes higher as longer droughts are measured. Through the worst two-month drought, only half a millimetre of rain fell per month. Through the worst 12-month drought no less than 24 mm fell per month. The worst 120-month drought had 47 mm per month on average. That is not far below the normal average monthly rainfall of 54.3 mm per month.

The third graph builds on this comparison. Each drought rainfall rate is shown as a percentage of the normal rainfall rate. While those worst droughts that were shorter than than five months had less than 10% of normal rainfall, no droughts that were longer than five months ever had so little. Droughts lasting for 12 months never had rainfall lower than 44% of normal. As for the decade-long droughts mentioned in the news, the driest decades in history had rainfall rates more than 85% of normal. Such record dry times are hard to see in rainfall figures, although they surely deplete surface and underground water storages.

[These graphs show clearly why droughts are not well defined by the percentage of normal rainfall. Percentile values are more satisfactory, but they too have problems.]

Manilla’s list of driest times

Table of lowest rainfallsThe table shows all the figures mentioned for each of the driest times on record in 134 years at Manilla.
Records can be broken, but it seldom happens. These records have stood for a very long time – at least the forty-six years since 1971.

Many of these record-setting droughts had dates of onset or breaking that were members of a rather small set. In particular, the year 1911 saw the onset of nearly half of them.

 

[This table was amended on 14/8/2018. The original table had two errors, now corrected.
1. The lowest 30-month total was not 1082 mm (36.1 mm/month; 66.5%) set March 1911 to August 1913. It was 1078 mm (35.9 mm/month; 66.2%) set May 1964 to October 1966.
2. There were not 14 rainless months, but 15. The month missed was April 1971.]

Cycling into drought

Graph of rainfall versus temperature at Manilla

In the last three years, the climate of Manilla has moved into drought. Rainfall has become lower than normal, and days have become warmer than normal.

The pattern of change

The pattern of change is clear on this graph only because the rainfall and temperature anomalies have been smoothed. Values for the last six months cannot yet be smoothed so well. Their pattern is ragged.
The first point on the graph, July 2015, is close to the Zero-Zero point of normal climate, marked by a circle in turquoise. Since then, the climate has cycled mainly along the blue line joining the two corners marked “Hot Dry ‘Droughts'” and “Cold Wet ‘Flooding Rains'”, as in Dorothea Mackellar’s poem “My Country”.
For the first seven months, to February 2016, while rainfall hardly changed, the temperature rose to above normal. Then, by August 2016, the climate became unusually cold and wet. This first cycle ended in January 2017 at the hot-dry limit of normal climate.
From February 2017, a second cycle began with movement towards cool and wet, but that ceased in May without getting as far as normal. Since May 2017, the movement has been persistently towards hot and dry.
The final smoothed data point, December 2017, is close to the 21st Century record for both low rainfall anomaly (minus 27.1 mm/month in July 2002) and high daily maximum temperature anomaly (plus 1.39 degrees in October 2013). New records seem likely to be set when values for 2018 can be smoothed.

Length of cycles

The cycles on this graph have a period close to one year. February had the highest smoothed daily maximum temperature anomaly in 2016 and in 2017. When smoothed, the same may be true in 2018.
Historically, the cycles cold-wet to hot-dry have a period of about two years (“quasi-biennial”) at Manilla and in Australia as a whole.
The climate cycles or climate trends associated with Global Warming have periods that are very much longer. They do not show on this graph. If they did, they would show as movement on the other diagonal, between the corners marked “Cold Dry ‘Glacial'” and “Hot Wet ‘Interglacial'”.

The 2002 drought

The most recent extreme drought was in 2002. A similar graph for that drought is in the post “Profile of an Extreme Drought”.

For context, see the post “Manilla’s Record of Droughts”.

Graphs of other variables

The graph in this post is one of a set of six, showing smoothed anomalies of variables versus smoothed daily maximum temperature. The variables are: rainfall, cloudiness, dew point, daily temperature range, daily minimum temperature, and subsoil temperature.
All six graphs, with further explanation, are in another post.

Rainfall Shortages up to June 2018

Rainfall shortage Manilla, June 2018

Since the twelve-month drought of 2002, Manilla has been free from extreme rainfall shortage until now. Such a long gap between extreme droughts has not been seen here before. [See Note below: Dry May 2006.]

Rainfall shortages now

On this graph the black line with black squares shows Manilla rainfall shortages at the end of June 2018. Shortages are shown for short terms down to one month, and for long terms up to 360 months (30 years).

[Shortages at the end of May are shown in a previous post.]

[A graph showing shortages at the end of July is in a later post: “Drought Fifth Month; July 2018”.]

Extreme shortages

Three extreme rainfall shortages have now developed, all below the 1st percentile rank:
Total for two months (May and June): 6 mm;
Total for three months (April, May and June): 24 mm;
Total for four months (March, April, May and June): 50 mm.

Severe shortages

There were five severe shortages in rainfall totals as follows:
Total for six months: 141 mm, at the 4th percentile;
Total for twelve months: 350 mm, at the 2nd percentile;
Total for fifteen months: 492 mm, at the 3rd percentile;
Total for sixty months: 2672 mm, at the 4th percentile;
Total for seventy-two months: 3317 mm, at the 4th percentile.

Serious shortages

Some other rainfall shortages were not severe, but serious:
Total for one month: 5.2 mm, at the 7th percentile;
Total for five months: 120 mm, at the 6th percentile;
Total for nine months: 464 mm, at the 10th percentile;
Total for eighteen months: 658 mm, at the 6th percentile.

Comparing June 2018 with the month before

Continue reading

Rainfall Shortages up to May 2018

Rainfall shortage Manilla May 2018

Rainfall shortages now

On this graph the black line with black squares shows Manilla rainfall shortages at the end of May 2018. Shortages are shown for short terms down to one month, and for long terms up to 360 months (30 years).

Extreme shortages

There were no extreme rainfall shortages at this date.

Severe shortages

There were severe shortages in rainfall totals as follows:
Total for one month (May): 1.2 mm, at the 2nd percentile;
Total for two months (April and May): 19 mm, at the 3rd percentile;
Total for three months (March, April and May): 45 mm, at the 4th percentile.

Serious shortages

Some other rainfall shortages were not severe, but serious:
Total for five months: 136 mm, at the 9th percentile;
Total for twelve months: 408 mm, at the 6th percentile;
Total for sixty months: 2765 mm, at the 8th percentile;
Total for seventy-two months: 3358 mm, at the 6th percentile.

General shortage

The first comment and reply below notes the fact that no rainfall total for any period reaches the 50th percentile. This has not happened for seventy years (1947).

[Later data

The following graph in this series is in the post: “Rainfall Shortages up to June 2018”.]

Comparing May 2018 with September 2017

The graph also has a grey line showing similar rainfall shortages at September 2017 (See the earlier post “A drought has begun”.). In the following month, October, there were no rainfall shortages, because the rainfall, 84 mm, was far above average. November, December and February also had rainfalls above average.
Since March 2018, shortages have appeared again. By comparing the black line (May 2018) with the grey line (September 2017), you can see that the rainfall totals are now lower for nearly all periods of time. Only four totals are now higher, including the 4-month total.

What are the classes of rainfall shortage?

We need to compare rainfall shortages. The best way is not by how far below normal the rainfall is, but by how rare it is. That is, not by the percentage of normal rainfall, but by the percentile value. As an example, when the rainfall is at the fifth percentile, that means that only five percent of all such rainfall measurements were lower than that.
Once the percentile values have been worked out for the rainfall record, each new reading can be given its percentile value. Percentile values of low rainfall are classed as extreme, severe, or serious.
For a rainfall shortage to be classed as extreme, its value must be at or below the 1st percentile.
A severe rainfall shortage is one that is below the 5th percentile.
A serious rainfall shortage is one that is below the 10th percentile.
A rainfall shortage that is above the 10th percentile is not counted as serious.

Long-lasting rainfall shortages

Rainfall shortages sometimes last a long time. The same classes of shortage are used for long periods, such as a year, as for short periods, such as a month. They depend on how rare such a shortage is on the average, and they all use the same percentile values to separate extreme, severe, and serious rainfall shortages.