Annual Rainfall Extremes at Manilla NSW: I

I. Better graphs of Manilla’s annual rainfall and its scatter

Manilla 21-year rainfall medians

Background

The first two graphs  are new versions of graphs in an earlier post, published also as an article in “The Manilla Express” (28/2/17) and in the “North West Magazine” (20/3/17).

In that article, I said:
“This Manilla rainfall record is one counter-example to the snow-balling catalogue of reported extreme climatic events.”
My claim was not well supported. While the two graphs showed that recent annual rainfalls have been normal, with little scatter, they do not show whether there were any extreme events.

However, Manilla’s annual rainfall record can be analysed to show extreme events. This post considers the Total Range within a 21-year sampling window as an indicator of extremes. A following post discusses kurtosis as another measure.

The two improved graphs

The re-drawn graphs of historical records in this post use a 21-year sampling window, as before. They now have an improved smoothing procedure: a 9-point Gaussian curve. (The weights are stated below.)

1. Yearly Rainfall Totals

The first graph (above) represents the normal rainfall as it changes. The earlier version showed the arithmetic mean. The new version uses the median value (the middle, or 50th percentile value) instead.
The new version is less “jumpy” due to better smoothing. The median varies much more than the mean does. All the same, most features of the shape are unchanged: very low annual rainfall from 1915 to 1950; very high rainfall from 1955 to 1982; normal rainfall since 1983. There are some shape changes: rainfall before 1900 does not plot so high; from 1911 to 1913 there is a respite from drought; the highest rainfall by far now appears from 1970 to 1980.

As before, one can say:
“Present rainfall will seem low to those who remember the 1970’s, but the 1970’s were wet times and now is normal. Few alive now will remember that Manilla’s rainfall really was much lower in the 1930’s.”

In addition, this new version makes the pattern of growth and sudden collapse obvious. Collapses amounting to 100 mm came within a few years after both 1900 and 1978. Growth in the 58 years from 1920 to 1978 came at the phenomenal and unsustainable rate of 33 mm per decade. By the 1970’s, elderly residents of Manilla would have seen rainfall increase decade by decade throughout their lives.
(I noted this pattern of growth and collapse in an earlier post about Manilla’s summer rainfall.)

Manilla 21-year rainfall Inter-quartile Range

2. Yearly Near-Mean Rainfall Scatters

The plot on this second graph is changed only by better smoothing. However, the titles are changed. I realised that the Inter-quartile Range is not a good general indicator of spread or, in this case, of reliability of rainfall (as I had assumed). Inter-quartile Range measures the scatter of values that are close the middle: just the middle 50%. My new title refers to “near-mean” scatter. Any values that could be called “extreme” fall very far beyond the Inter-quartile Range.

Two more measures of scatter

An alternative measure of scatter in data is the Standard Deviation. In normally distributed data, the Standard Deviation extends 34% each side of the median (and mean). The “Standard Deviation Range” then extends from the 16th percentile to the 84th percentile. It includes a much larger proportion (68%) of a population than the Inter-quartile Range (50%) does. However, it also says nothing about extremes, which will lie far out in the residual 32% “tails” of the data.

The broadest measure of scatter is the Total Range from the lowest to the highest value. This measure does include any extreme values that exist in the data.
In the present case, each calculation uses a sample that includes only 21 points. The lowest data point is close to the 5th percentile and the highest data point is close to the 95th percentile of a similar continuous curve.

All three measures of scatter graphed

Manilla 21-year rainfall Total Range, Standard Deviation Range and Inter-quartile Range

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Manilla’s Yearly Rainfall History

Lately, Manilla’s rainfall is normal, and more reliable
than it ever was.

Manilla yearly rainfall record, 21-yr smoothed

Yearly rainfall totals

The first graph helps to make sense of the history of Manilla’s rainfall, using the totals for each year. The actual figures make little sense, jumping up or down from one year to the next. The figures here have been calmed down. First, I replaced each yearly figure by an average of twenty-one years, ten years before and ten years after the date. Then I smoothed that figure some more.
The pattern is plain. There were periods in the past when there was much more or less rain than usual.
In four decades the rainfall was some 30 mm higher than normal: the 1890’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. In four other decades, the rainfall was some 30 mm lower than normal: the 1900’s, 1910’s, 1920’s and 1930’s.
Rainfall here collapsed about 1900. The collapse was was widespread, as was recognised half a century ago.

Using the average line drawn across the graph (at 652 mm), you can see that rainfall was below average from 1902 to 1951: almost exactly the first half of the twentieth century. After 1951, rainfall was above average for the 44 years to 1995. Since then, the annual rainfall (as plotted) has been remarkably close to the 132-year average.
Present rainfall will seem low to those who remember the 1970’s, but the 1970’s were wet times and now is normal. Few alive now will remember that Manilla’s rainfall really was much lower in the 1930’s.

Manilla yearly rainfall scatters.

Yearly rainfall scatter

The second graph also groups the data twenty-one years at a time. It shows the scatter of yearly rainfalls in each group. More scatter or spread means the rainfall was less reliable. Comparing the graphs, times of high scatter (very unreliable rainfall) were not times of low rainfall, as one might think. Annual rainfall scatter and rainfall amount were not related.
Times of very unreliable rainfall came in 1919 (dry), 1949 (normal) and 1958 (wet). Times of reliable rainfall came in 1908 and 1936 (both dry). However, by far the most reliable rainfall came since 1992, extending to 2004 and likely up to this year.

Global warming

It has been argued that human-induced climate change will cause climatic extremes to happen more often in future. Already, when any extreme climate event is reported, someone will say that climate change has caused it.

The present steady rise in global temperature began about 1975. Does this Manilla rainfall record show more extreme events since that date? Definitely not! Quite the contrary. Continue reading

Is There Any Drought Now?

No. In Manilla just now, there is no drought of any kind: not a short drought, a medium-length drought, or a long drought; not an extreme drought, a severe drought, or even just a serious drought.

A new comprehensive graph of the severity of drought at one site.

In this graph, each line of data points is for one particular month. The middle line, joining the red squares, shows the whole rainfall drought situation for last month: September 2016.
This is a new kind of graph. (See Note 1 below.) It can show how severe a drought is, not only during the last month or two, but during the last year, and during the last many years. That is a lot of information.

How to read the graph

A month of extreme drought would have data points very low down on the graph. The scale on the left side is amount of rainfall. It must be a “percentile” value. For example: if the amount of rain that fell is just more than has been seen in the driest 5% of all months, it has a value in the 5th percentile. (See Note 2 below.)

Along the top and bottom of the graph I have plotted a number of months.
The number does not show time passing. It shows the number of months I included in a calculation. For each month on record I did many calculations. I added up the total rainfall for:
* the month itself;
* two months including the previous month;
* three months including the month before that;
* … and so on.
I found the totals for larger groups of months extending back as far as 360 months (30 years).
Using all these rainfall totals, I calculated percentile values to plot on the graph. For example, for groups of 12 months, all groups of 12 consecutive months are compared with each other, to find the percentile value of the 12-month period ending in a given month. (See Note 3 below.)

Which months had the most drought and least drought?

The worst drought there could ever have been would be one with data points along the bottom line of the graph. In such a disastrous month, all the rainfall totals would be the lowest on record, not just the one-month total, but also the two-month total and so on up to the 360-month total. Every one of them would be the lowest total on record. It has never been as bad as that.
The “best” time, in terms of being free of drought, would be a month with all its data points along the top edge of the graph. For that month, every rainfall total, for a short period or a long period, would be the wettest on record.
From the Manilla rainfall record, I have chosen to display the most drought and the least drought that actually occurred.

The most drought: August 1946

The month of August 1946 had no rain. Of course, that was the lowest rainfall for any August month (One among 13 months on record that had no rain.). As a result, the percentile rank for that month’s rainfall is zero. Most totals for groups of any number of months ending in August 1946 are also on the “zero-th” percentile, that is, the lowest on record. Thus, it was an extreme drought in the short term, medium term and long term.
For this month, percentile values that are above the third percentile occur in the totals for 48, 60, and 72 months, as shown. These figures, while not extremely low, were still well below normal (Normal is the 50th percentile.). They occur because these totals include some wet months in 1940, 1941, and 1942.

The least drought: March 1894

March 1894, with 295 mm of rain, was one of the the wettest months ever, ensuring a 100th percentile value. The rainfall totals for groups of months ending in that month included six other “wettest ever” values, and all other groups of months were also very wet. No group of months was below the 95th percentile. (See Note 4 below.)

Current drought situation (September 2016)

This month’s rainfall total of 122.4 mm puts it in the 92nd percentile of all monthly rainfall values, far above the median value marked as “normal” on the graph. The 2-month rainfall total (203 mm), and the 4-month rainfall total (350 mm) are almost as high, each in the 90th percentile.
Continue reading

Rain Days at Manilla: I.

Rain per rain day graph

The annual pattern of rain day rainfall

In Manilla, the mean pattern of rainfall on rain days through the months of the year is simple and regular. This pattern can be worked out from the 125-year rainfall record of Manilla Post Office, Station 055031, beginning in 1883.
The graph above shows that, on the average, on a day when rain falls in January, the total in the day is about thirteen millimetres. When rain falls in July, the total in a day is about half of that: that is, six and a half millimetres. The pattern through the year is close to a perfect harmonic cycle, with a maximum in the third week of January, (four weeks after the longest day) and a minimum exactly six months later, in the third week of July. Only two of the monthly readings do not match the pattern well: January has about one millimetre more than would fit the curve, and December about half a millimetre less.
Of course, most people in the district realise that heavier rain falls in summer, but few would know any details. I do not think that the Bureau of Meteorology has ever worked through these figures. [See note below about the use of “rain days” in the Bureau.]
This very simple pattern of mean rainfall per rain day is the more remarkable because it comes from two other patterns that are not so simple.

MeanRainEachMonthThe second graph is the pattern of monthly rainfall totals through the year. Manilla has two peaks of rainfall volume in the year. The major peak comes in the last days of December, a few days after the longest day, and a minor peak just six months later, at the end of June. Winter is marked, not by a minimum of rainfall, but by a secondary maximum. Much more detail is given in the post “A seasonal rainfall model for Manilla”
and in the post “Manilla 30-year Monthly Rainfall Anomalies”.

The final graph shows simply how many days of rain there are in each calendar month, on the average. This pattern is quite strange. Most months of the year have about six rain days. April has fewer: Continue reading

Manilla’s Droughts, 1884 to 1916

Graphical log of droughts, 1884 to 1916

The catastrophic droughts in 1902 and 1912-16 were quite different.

In the years before 1917 shown here, Manilla had several times of extreme drought. They came in 1888, 1895, 1902, and in a cluster that began in 1912.
(1.) The 1888 extreme droughts were of 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 9-month duration. The 2-month event was in August, and other events came later as they became longer, until the 9-month event came in December (having begun in April).
(2.) In 1895, drought was extreme only for durations of 5-months (June) and 6-months (July and August). Although droughts of 2-, 3-, 4-, and 9-month duration also occurred, they were not extreme, but merely “severe”.
(3.) Manilla’s 1902 (“Federation”) drought was phenomenal. Extreme droughts of nearly all durations from 2 months through to 96 months occurred (and ended) at practically the same time. The 2-month event plots at May 1902. The 96-month extreme drought plots at February-March 1903. None of the drought events around 1902 extended far into 1903; all ceased abruptly. The rainfall shortages began earlier according to a simple pattern; the longer the duration of the extreme event, the earlier it began. The 1902 extreme 1-year drought began in September 1901, and the extreme 8-year drought began in 1895.
(4.) The cluster of drought events extending through 1912 and 1916 was as bad as the events of 1902, but quite different. Merely “severe” short-duration events began in April 1911. Events of increasing duration came at later dates, forming a smooth curve on the graph. Beyond 12-month duration, and up to 72-month duration, there were extreme events at nearly all classes of duration. By the 72-month duration, the date of plotting had drifted forward in time to January-July 1916. The beginning of these 72-month events would have been during Continue reading

No rain, and no rain gauge

A very long spell with no rain

My town, Manilla NSW, may be having one of the longest periods without rain in 133 years. We will never know.

The records of the Manilla Post Office rain gauge, No. 055031, show that the longest periods without rain were as follows:
1. August 1946: 62 days;
2. April 1912: 55 days;
3. Apr-May 2002: 47 days;
4. August 1914: 46 days;
5. May 1927: 45 days;
6. Mar-Apr 1980: 44 days;
7. April 1925: 43 days;
8. August 1982: 42 days;
9=. March 1896: 41 days;
9=. August 1995: 41 days;
11. March 1934: 40 days;
12. April 1942: 38 days;
13. March 1981: 37 days;
14. March 1955: 36 days.
To judge by my rain gauge, we have had a rainless period that is already equal seventh longest since 1883. Today, rain bands are passing through, but perhaps no rain will fall in my gauge. There may be several rainless days yet.

My gauge not valid for Manilla

Photo of dry wedge-type rain gauge

My rain gauge

The photo shows my personal rain gauge. It is dusty because it has been dry for the last 43 days.
Whether it rains in my gauge today or not, my reading cannot count in the record for the town of Manilla. It is as if it is this dry spell is not happening.
My gauge is very simple and not precise. It is hard to read to parts of a millimetre. I bought a cheap one, because there is no point in having a precise rain gauge in my yard. The yard is too sheltered to meet the Bureau of Meteorology standard. My house is also a kilometre away from the Post Office.

Manilla’s failed rainfall record

Rainfall was first recorded at the Manilla Post Office in March 1883. The record of readings was essentially unbroken through 132 years until the 26th of March 2015. There are towns with longer rainfall records, but not very many.
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More Droughts After Heavier Rains III.

Graphical log of errors when droughts are predicted from rains

Droughts and flooding rains at Manilla NSW were related in a way that is remarkable and unexpected.

Part III. Predicting drought from heavy rain

[Back to Part II: Scatter-plots]

The graph above is derived from the first graph in this series (copied here) by using the blue regression trend-line from the scatter plot of selected data (also copied here). (For data details, sLog of 1-year droughts and 5-year lagged heavy rainfallsee Note 1, below.)

The equation of the trend line, y = 0.030x is used AS IF to use the daily rainfall excesses to predict the drought frequency five years later. The graph shows the “error” of this “prediction”. (In Note 2, below, I concede that this data set could not support such prediction.)
As expected from the previous graphs, the “prediction” is accurate at most data points to 1975. It is correct to the nearest percentage whole number at nine of the eighteen points. From 1940 to 1955, droughts are uniformly more frequent than predicted. After 1975, the error curve swings wildly up and down.

Could droughts have been predicted from heavy rainfalls?

Scatter-plot 1890 to 1975

By about 1915, it is conceivable that this relationship could have been discovered, either by analysis of such data, or by modelling of the climate system. Then, the data for the next 20 years, up to 1935, would seem to confirm it. Data from 1940 to 1955 would cause doubts, but data from 1960 to 1975 would restore confidence. Then the utter failure of the model in the following four decades would have led to its abandonment, at least for the time being.

Climate shifts of 1975

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