November Drought Gets Longer

In November 2018, the drought faded in the short term, but became worse in the long term.

Rainfall Oct Nov 2018 Manilla

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 October, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of October, are shown by a thinner line with smaller white circles.

Changes this month

November rainfall was almost normal at 50.2 mm, further raising the totals for 2, 3, 4, and 5 months, so they did not qualify as serious shortages. The 6-month total of 156 mm qualified as a serious shortage.
The remaining extreme shortages were at 9 months (201 mm) and 18 months (564 mm).

Worsening long-term shortages

Rainfall totals for periods from 72 months to 360 months (6 years to 30 years) are now all below normal. In decades before September 2017 those totals had been normal. (See the September 2017 plot on the graph in this earlier post.)

Three of the current data points are far below normal. The 7-year total (3935 mm) is a severe (almost extreme) shortage, not seen since 1946. The 120-month (10-year) total (5986 mm) is a serious shortage, not seen since 1967. Similarly, the 240-month (20-year) total is a serious shortage, not seen since 1949.
Such long-term rainfall shortages were common early in the 20th century. They have hardly occurred since the Keepit Dam was built in 1960.


Further Explanation

Drought 2018 contour chartMuch more detail was given in the post: “Contours of Manilla’s 2018 Drought” (with data up to October only). Notes include: “Long-term shortages”, “Classes of rainfall shortage”, and “Manilla rainfall records”.

The 2002 drought contour chart

Contour chart 2002 drought at Manilla NSW

The 2002 drought at Manilla was a failure of winter rainfall. [See Note below: “Manilla’s rainfall seasonality”.]

The top line of this contour chart shows that monthly rainfall shortages occurred in all the six months of winter rainfall dominance (April to September) of 2002. Shortages in May and July were severe, below the 5th percentile. In the summer rainfall months (October to March) that preceded and followed, rainfall was near or above normal. [See Note below: “Classes of rainfall shortage”.]

Lower down the contour chart, rainfall shortages of longer duration are shown. For droughts of 3 months duration, the rainfall shortage was extreme (1st percentile) by July 2002, as it included the serious shortage of May as well as that of July. In the same way, one sees extreme 6-month shortages in September and October, as all the monthly rainfall shortages since March added up.

By November 2002, one sees extreme droughts of 9 months and 12 months duration. The 9-month drought incorporated the consecutive months of below-normal rainfall from March to November. The extreme 12-month drought (307 mm) that was evident in November 2002 began earlier, with below-normal rainfalls in December 2001 and January 2002. That was the fourth driest 12-month period on record, after October 1965 (288 mm), August 1946 (302 mm) and November 1965 (304 mm).

The 2002 drought had no extreme rainfall shortages longer than 12 months. There were, however, some severe shortages of 18 months duration and some serious shortages of 24 months duration, due to some low rainfalls in the previous winter (2001).

By April 2003, hardly any serious rainfall shortages due to the 2002 drought remained. [See Note below: “Limitations of this analysis”]

More about the 2002 drought

Graph of monthly percentile rainfall in a droughtAnother approach to describing this 2002 drought is in the post “The 2002 rainfall shortages at Manilla”. That post has a graph showing selected monthly profiles of percentile values. It also links to two earlier posts with graphs of smoothed values of climatic anomalies.

The 2018 Drought

Drought 2018 contour chartA similar contour plot for the drought of 2018 reveals similarities and differences.


Note: Classes of rainfall shortage

Continue reading

An Extreme 24-month Drought

The 830 mm of rain that fell in the last 24-months is the lowest in 50 years.

Rainfall shortages September and October 2018 at Manilla

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 October, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of September, are shown by a thinner line with smaller white circles.

Changes this month

October rainfall that was normal (51.6 mm) also raised the totals for 2 months and 3 months, so they did not qualify as serious shortages. The 4-month total of 101 mm just qualified.
Extreme shortages formed a new pattern. In September, two values had been exceptionally low: the 6-month total had been the third lowest ever, and the 15-month total had been the lowest. By October, no rainfall was far below the 1st percentile value. They clustered at 12 months, 15 months, 18 months and 24 months.
As the 24-month rainfall shortage was extreme (below 840 mm), this became the worst 24-month drought in half a century. Extreme 24-month droughts had come in 1902, 1913, 1946, and 1966, but never since.


Further Explanation

Much more detail was given with last month’s graph of rainfall shortages, in the post: “Record 15-month Drought in 2018”. Notes include: “Long-term shortages”, “Classes of rainfall shortage”, and “Manilla rainfall records”.


Drought development plot

Drought 2018 contour chartThe development of the 2018 drought at Manilla is shown in the post “Contours of Manilla’s 2018 Drought”. The graph there shows contours of drought severity plotted against date and duration.

Contours of Manilla’s 2018 Drought

Drought 2018 contour chart

Displaying drought severity, date, and duration.

This image shows how an extreme drought developed at Manilla, NSW in 2018. The contours and colours indicate drought severity. They show whether the rainfall shortage was extreme, severe, or merely serious. At times without drought, they show when the rainfall was above normal.
[See Note below: “Classes of rainfall shortage”.]
Calendar months appear in order along the top, showing how the severity of drought has changed as time has passed.
Down the side, the duration of drought is shown, from one month duration at the top to thirty-six months duration at the bottom. Each month is shown on one vertical line, with a severity value plotted against each duration value.
[In other posts (like “Record 15-month Drought in 2018”) each individual month’s drought data is plotted as severity versus duration.]

The pattern of the 2018 drought

Development

In each of the months May, June, and July 2018, the monthly rainfall was a serious or severe shortage, below the 10th percentile. As rainfall had been below normal also in March and April, each month after April saw severe and even extreme shortages that extended to durations of 3 months and longer. By August, there were extreme droughts of five-month and six-month duration, despite reasonable rain (28 mm) having fallen in August.
By September, the nine months to date were in extreme drought. That is to say, the first nine months of 2018 had a total rainfall lower than any but 1% of all nine-month periods in history.
However, in that month (September 2018), the rainfall shortage for a 12-month duration was not extreme, but merely severe. Yet the 15-month shortage for that month was also extreme. In fact, it was the lowest 15-month rainfall total in history (400 mm).
The source of the extreme 15-month shortage at this date is obvious. One year earlier, the month of September 2017 had a serious rainfall shortage, and the two previous months had little rain. From these short-term shortages in spring 2017, shortages of longer duration descend as an arc across the graph. They become mild nine-month shortages during the summer, then worsen to extreme by merging with 2018 shortages.

Seasonality

Manilla’s rainfall is seasonal, with two distinct modes, each dominating half the year. There is a major summer (monsoonal) mode and a minor winter (westerly) mode. The summer rainfall mode dominates from October to March and the winter rainfall mode dominates from April to September. [See Note below: “Manilla’s rainfall seasonality”.]
This graph documents a failure of winter rainfall. The 2018 months that had rainfall shortages were the months of dominance of the winter rainfall mode (April to September). Rainfall had been near or above normal in the preceding summer rainfall mode (October 2017 to March 2018), and was so again in October 2018. [See Note below: “Limitations of this analysis”]
The rainfall shortages in the previous year (2017) were also restricted to the months of the winter rainfall mode, but began very late. Shortages did not develop until the final three months (July, August, September). Only when the extreme drought of 2018 developed did those 2017 shortages have a big effect.


The 2002 drought contour plot

Contour chart 2002 drought at Manilla NSWThe most recent extreme drought at Manilla before 2018 was the drought of 2002.
A contour plot in the same format is in this post.


Note: Classes of rainfall shortage

Continue reading

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.”

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.]


A new record set in 2018

The record for 15-month low rainfall of 404 mm, set in 1912, was broken when the 15 months to September 2018 reached only 400 mm.
See the post “Record 15-month Drought in 2018”.

There is a video interview on the topic here:

https://www.prime7.com.au/news/4303-rain-tracker