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.
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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

Ranked Hot and Cold Days

Graphs like this show how the trends of temperature differ between the coldest days (or nights) of the year, the hottest ones, and all those ranked in between.

This first post on this topic is a “sampler” of Manilla data that I will present. It compares my first 9-year period March 1999 to February 2008 with the 9-year period September 2003 to August 2012, four and a half years later.

Graphs showing trends of temperatures for ranked days.

All the days (or nights) of the year are arranged from the coldest on the left to the hottest on the right. Columns show by how much the day or night of that rank has trended warmer or cooler during the nine years. (See also Notes below.)

1. Days
In the earlier period (blue), most winter days and a few mid-summer days cooled at 0.1 to 0.2 degrees per year. Days in spring and autumn, and cooler days in summer warmed at less than 0.1 degrees per year.
In the later period (red), all days of the year cooled, but there was a gradient from no cooling in midwinter to extremely rapid cooling (more than 0.3 degrees per year) in midsummer.

2. Nights
In the earlier period (blue), nights in the warmer half of the year, and in midwinter warmed at about 0.1 degrees per year. There was no warming either in midsummer or in the warmer part of winter.
In the later period (red), it was now in the cooler half of the year that nights warmed at about 0.1 degrees per year. Nights in the warmer part of summer cooled more and more rapidly as they approached midsummer, where the cooling rate was 0.25 degrees per year.
[The 50-year average warming of this part of australia is 0.015 degrees per year. That is, less than two tick-marks on the y-axis.]

Prior postings

This graph and its commentary appeared as a post in “weatherzone” forums on 25/10/12:

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The 2002 rainfall shortages at Manilla

Graph of monthly percentile rainfall in a drought

In 2002, Manilla had a 6-month drought with one of the most extreme rainfall shortages on record. In nearly fifty years since 1966 there have been no other shortages like it.

I have discussed this drought in two posts: “Profile of an Extreme Drought”, and 3-year trends to August 2004 (An extreme 1-year drought).

This post is about the rainfall record only. It compares the percentile values of rainfall totals for groups of months: one month, two months, and so on. The graph shows how the drought began, developed and faded. Other droughts may go through similar stages. I have plotted the pattern of rainfall shortages month by month, showing only even-numbered months. I have plotted them in different colours, with matching “Call-out” labels.

April 2002 (Red): no drought yet.
In April, the monthly rainfall was slightly below average: in the 40th percentile. In this month, nearly all rainfall totals up to the 42-month total were also below average. Only the 6-month total was above average. This set up the conditions for a drought. Notice that rainfall totals for periods longer than 42 months were all well above average. This hardly changed at all in this year. There had been a lot of rain in previous decades.

June 2002 (Orange): 2, 3, and 4-month droughts.
When May rainfall was in the 1st percentile and June rainfall in the 25th percentile, the June 2, 3, and 4-month totals became serious or severe shortages (below the 10th percentile).

August 2002 (Green): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9-month droughts.
With July rainfall again in the 1st percentile, and August rainfall in the 26th, the drought became extreme. The 4, 5, and 6-month totals were in the 1st percentile: few months had ever had such low figures.

October 2002 (Blue): 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18-month droughts.
September and October both had rainfall in the 18th percentile. That relieved the short-term shortages somewhat, but not those in the medium term. Shortages in the 4, 5, and 9-month totals were in the 1st percentile, but the 6-month total was very much worse. At 76 mm, it was the third driest on record, beaten only by August 1888 (43 mm) and September 1888 (69 mm).

December 2002 (Purple): only 9- and 12-month droughts remain.
November rainfall that was near average (40th percentile) and high December rainfall (84th percentile) broke the drought. Only some longer-term effects persisted as severe rainfall shortages in 9- and 12-month totals.

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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More Droughts After Heavier Rains II.

Scatter-plot 1890 to 1975

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

Part II. Scatter-plots

[Back to Part I: Graphical logs]

I have made scatter plots to see how much correlation there is between the two data sets: the frequency % of severe 12-month drought and the total decadal daily rainfall excesses over 50 mm, when lagged five years. (For data details, see Note 1, below.)

A. The first 70% of the data

The first scatter-plot includes only the first 70% of the data, from 1890 to 1975, which showed matching patterns on the graphical log copied below. I have broken the data points into two groups: the aberrant group 1940 to 1955 (red) and the fourteen best-matched points (blue). The trend line that best fits those fourteen points is y = 0.028x + 0.407, with R-squared = 0.898. However, I have been able to fit the trend line y = 0.030x, that shows y proportional to x, without making R-squared worse than 0.892.
Similarly, the four decades centred on 1940, 1945, 1950 and 1955, had y = 0.050x, with R-squared equal to 0.902.

Expressed in words: for fourteen of the first eighteen data points, the frequency % of severe 12-month droughts remained close to 0.03 times the decade total of daily rainfall (>50 mm/day) measured five years earlier. For the other group of four adjacent points, the number was not 0.03, but 0.05.

B. All the data

Scatter-plot 1890 to 2010

The second scatter plot shows data for all 25 (five-year overlapped) decades. There is a “shot-gun” pattern, as expected. Continue reading

More Droughts After Heavier Rains I.

Log of 1-year droughts and 5-year lagged heavy rainfalls

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

Part 1. Graphical logs

As the first graph shows, for most of the 130-year record year-long droughts came in direct proportion to very heavy daily rainfall five years earlier. (For data details, see Note 1, below.)
The match between these two variables is astonishing. Both are based on rainfall readings, but they are scarcely related. Excessive daily rainfalls are transient extreme weather events; 12-month droughts are an aspect of climate.

Mackellar’s “Droughts and flooding rains”

Dorothea Mackellar’s famous line * is more apt for this graph than for other graphs where I use “flooding rains” to mean periods unlike drought. (See Note 2. below.) The rains and droughts that I plot here both bring hardship. Severe droughts lasting one year are among the worst of droughts: long enough to use up reserves, and not so long as to be eased by periods of rain. The daily rainfall events plotted are the ones that cause damaging floods.

Features of the graphical log

Log of 1-year droughts and heavy rainfalls

This second graph shows the data at the actual dates. Although the data points for the decade excess of heavy daily rainfall and those for frequency % of 12-month droughts have a matching pattern for much of the record, the pattern is offset. Heavy rainfall points come five years earlier than corresponding drought points. Notice that the heavy rainfalls do not (except in 1980) come squarely in gaps between droughts.
Lagging the rainfall points by five years (as in the first graph) makes some matches almost exact. Such matches occur at all data points from 1890 to 1975, except those from 1940 to 1955, where drought frequencies are relatively higher. Both variables show a two-decade-long, slow decline from 1905 to 1925. At the chosen scales, the amplitude of corresponding rises and falls are usually similar as well.
After 1975, daily rainfall oscillates through a wide amplitude with a twenty-year period, while the frequency % of drought varies Continue reading