Annual Rainfall Extremes at Manilla NSW: I

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

Manilla 21-year rainfall medians


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

Continue reading

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

Decadal and Inter-decadal changes in rainfall: III.

Summer rainfall anomalies and trends

Part 3 of 3: A growth and collapse model for summer rainfall

(See Notes below for data and plotting details.)

I have put this October 2014  post up on the front page as a “sticky” (5/1/15) because I have just found a relevant scientific article. See “Note added January 2015” below.

A linear trend

In Part II, I showed that a linear trend fits well (R-squared = 0.54) to smoothed summer rainfall at Manilla, NSW from 1897 to 1976. This trend-line rises extremely steeply: 156 mm per century.
(See also the Duodecadal Means graph below.)

Implications of the extreme trend

Such an extreme trend cannot extend more than a short time into the past or the future without reaching physical limits. Extremely high values must be followed by lower values and vice versa. The oscillation between higher and lower values in nature is often modeled as a smooth harmonic curve. That does not fit well here. Not only does the rise from 1897 to 1976 fail to curve down approaching the final peak, the falls from 1892 to 1900 and from 1975 to 1987 are extremely sharp. They are collapses.
It seems to me that a model of steady growth followed by sudden collapse may perhaps reflect the processes involved. On the graph I have added speculative trend lines of the same rising slope as that observed for 1897 to 1976. The constant for the first speculative trend line is 130 mm higher and leads to a 130 mm collapse from 1896 to 1899. A 90 mm collapse from 1978 to 1981 then leads to a renewed rising trend that is 90 mm lower.

Note added January 2015.

The sudden collapse in summer rainfall here at the beginning of the twentieth century was studied sixty years ago by E.B. Kraus (Snowy Mountains Authority!): “Secular changes of east-coast rainfall regimes” (1955).
“The mean rainfall along the east coasts of North America and Australia is shown to have decreased abruptly at the end of the 19th century… A simultaneous decrease of the rainfall in the Continue reading

Decadal and Inter-decadal changes in rainfall: II.

Log of smoothed summer and winter rainfall anomalies.

Part 2 of 3: The record restricted to 1891-1982 (92 years)

(See Notes below for data and plotting details.)

No climatic record is ever long enough to demonstrate apparent cycles, trends or extremes beyond doubt. In Part 1, a linear trend of summer rainfall rising at 24.7 mm per century was fitted to the whole 130-year record. Although this is a very high (perhaps unsustainable) rate of increase, the trend line explains hardly any of the variation. The R-squared value is 0.03! However, there does seem to be a steeper quasi-linear trend prevailing for most of the period of record. The graphs I have posted here show a restricted record beginning in 1891 and ending in 1982. This simulates an analysis done in 1983 (which could not have used more recent data) and supposes that records earlier than 1891 were unavailable for some reason.

I have chosen these dates so that
(i) the near-record smoothed summer rainfall maximum of 1891 is excluded but the record smoothed summer rainfall minimum of 1900 is included;
(ii) the record smoothed summer rainfall maximum of 1975 is included but the very low smoothed summer rainfall minimum of 1987 is excluded.
(Due to the smoothing window extending six years before and after a specified date, smoothed rainfall values can be calculated only from 1897 to 1976.)

Log of smoothed sum and difference of summer and winter rainfall anomalies.

Linear trends

For this restricted data set of 92 years, all four linear trends are very much steeper than for the whole 130-year record. The R-squared values are also much higher, indicating that the Continue reading

Decadal and Inter-decadal changes in rainfall: I.

Log of smoothed summer and winter rainfall anomalies.

Part 1 of 3: The whole 130-year record

(See Notes below for data and plotting details.)

Anomalies of smoothed summer and winter rainfall

Episodes of high or low summer rainfall do not coincide with those of winter rainfall (except in 1891). Nor do they consistently oppose each other, although this is common. The summer rainfall anomaly (red) was extremely low (-101 mm) about 1900, and extremely high (+119 mm) about 1975. The winter rainfall anomaly (blue) had lower extreme values: 1939 (-48 mm) was the lowest of several low values, and 1987 (+63 mm) the highest of several high ones.

Seasonal sums and differences

I plotted the smoothed yearly value of rainfall anomaly as the sum (purple) of a winter anomaly value and that of the following summer. There was an extreme maximum in 1891 (+139 mm!), and minimal values in 1899 (-79 mm) and 1913 (-87 mm), among others.
The difference between summer and winter seasonal anomalies (orange) shows as an extreme summer excess in 1974 (+163 mm), and extreme winter excesses in 1900 (-126 mm) and 1987 (-114 mm).

Log of smoothed sum and difference of summer and winter rainfall anomalies.

“Dreadful Thirst”

Banjo Paterson’s comic verse “City of Dreadful Thirst” refers to the town of Narromine, 300 kilometres west of Manilla.
Continue reading

Manilla 30-year Monthly Rainfall Anomalies

Manilla 30-year Monthly Rainfall Anomalies

In an earlier post I modelled the seasonal distribution of rainfall at Manilla, NSW, as a bi-modal Gaussian distribution with a higher Gaussian peak very close to the summer solstice and a lower one very close to the winter solstice.
Monthly discrepancies of the 125-year average from the model are small. They are plotted in black on each of the two graphs here. Only two months could not be made to fit the model well: October has 6.2 mm more rain than expected, and December has 10.0 mm less.
The graphs show anomalies from the model for each of five “epochs” of three decades (or less). They are:
1883 to 1900 – “19th Century” (19thC)
1901 to 1930 – “World War I” (WW I)
1931 to 1960 – “World War II” (WW II)
1961 to 1990 – “BoM Normal Period” (BoM)
1991 to 2012 – “21st Century” (21stC)
Continue reading

A Seasonal Rainfall Model for Manilla, NSW

Model of seasonal rainfall, Manilla

At 31 degrees south latitude, Manilla, in eastern Australia, lies between the winter rainfall regime of the westerly belt and the summer regime of the monsoon. Much more rain falls at Manilla in summer than in winter.
On this graph, the rainfall distribution by calendar months is shown by the black line and numbers (mm) . This is the average curve for the 125-year period from the first observations in 1883 up to 2007. For any shorter period the curve is not smooth. This record is scarcely long enough to yield a stable estimate of the seasonal pattern. Continue reading