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”.]

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.”

Since the Manilla rainfall record extends back 134 years, so that I calculate percentile ranks from more than 1200 cumulative monthly values, I can identify percentile ranks lower than the 0.1th percentile.
To the Bureau’s two classes of deficiency I would 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.]

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

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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).

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.

Relations Among Rainfall Moments

Six thumbnail graphs of rainfall moment relationships

Twelve-monthly values of rainfall since 1883 at Manilla NSW yield the four moments of their frequency distributions: mean, variance, skewness, and kurtosis. I plotted the history of each moment (when smoothed) in an earlier post.
Here, I compare the moments in pairs. Connected scatterplots reveal the trajectory of each relationship with time.
Some linear and cyclic trends persist through decades, but none persists through the whole record.
The first image is an index to the suite of six graphs of pair-wise relationships that I present below.

Rainfall Variance vs. Mean

Trajectory of Variance versus Mean

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Rainfall kurtosis vs. HadCRUT4, revised

Patterns of rainfall kurtosis and global temperature.

The kurtosis of annual rainfall at Manilla NSW forms a time-series that matches the time-series of global surface temperature when detrended.

Earlier posts were based on rainfall data sets that were too small. Estimates of kurtosis and skewness were unstable. For details please read “Rainfall kurtosis matches HadCRUT4” and “Rainfall kurtosis vs. HadCRUT4: scatterplots”.]

The variables

These two climate variables have little in common. Manilla, NSW, is a single station that has a 134-year record of daily rainfall only. That yields estimates of rainfall kurtosis, an indicator of the relative frequency of extreme values.
HadCRUT4 is one of several century-long estimates of near-surface temperature for the whole world. [See Note below: “Data Sources”.]

The visual match of the patterns

The first graph (a dual-axis line chart) shows that these two variables have similar patterns of variation over time.

I found the best visual match by:
* scaling 0.5 units of Manilla rainfall kurtosis to 0.1° of detrended HadCRUT4 temperature;
* aligning the kurtosis value of -0.3 units with the zero of detrended temperature;
* lagging the rainfall by two years.

Features that the two patterns have in common are:
* matching main peaks at 1897, 1942 and 2005, each higher than the one before;
* persistent low values in the 1910’s, 1920’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s;
*some matching minor peaks and troughs.

Regression rainfall kurtosis on HadCRUT4.

The correlation chart

The second graph is a correlation chart. The linear regression of kurtosis on detrended temperature has the reasonable R-squared value of 0.67.
As I have made it a connected scatterplot, you can see how the relation has changed through time. From the first data point in 1898 (in red) both variables decreased together to the lowest temperature in 1910. Both peaked in 1942, having risen since 1920, later falling until 1955-56. The final rise to the highest peak (2005) was continuous from 1984 for temperature, but the rise in kurtosis was not. It fell slightly in 1990, then remained static until 1998.
All rainfall figures actually came two years earlier. [See note below: “Manilla’s 2-year lead”.] The assigned two-year lag not only makes peaks match on the first graph. It sharpens the reversals on the second graph. On a trial connected scatterplot without lag, these reversals had been smooth clockwise curves.

What it means

As evidence of extreme behaviour in climate

It is said that more extremes in climate will occur as the world becomes warmer. The evidence is not strong. Most data sets are overwhelmed by noise, and “extreme” is seldom defined with rigor.
In the present case, I believe that the definition of “extreme” that I use is sound: that is, the kurtosis of a frequency-distribution. The instability of kurtosis when based on my small samples had been an issue. In this revision I have increased the sample population size from 21 to 125.

My rainfall data set that displays more and less extreme behaviour is not general but local. It can merely suggest that data elsewhere may reveal functional relationships.

De-trended global temperature

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