August 2017 arid and sunny

Photo of a honey-eater feeding

Noisy Miner in Emu Bush

Very few days in August were cloudy, and only one day, the 4th, had some rain: 13.6 mm. Extremely dry air produced a 21st-century record low dew point of minus 10.0 degrees on the 20th. The dry air and clear skies dried out the soil, and also made for wide ranges of temperature. Twelve days were more than 20° warmer than their nights. The actual temperatures, however, were not extreme. Weekly average temperatures remained normal until falling to 3.3° lower in the final days.
Frosts (below +2.2° in the screen) happened on 17 mornings, just two more than normal.

Weather log

Comparing August months

Arid August months like this occurred in 2012 and 2013, but not since then. The mean early morning dew points in 2012 (-2.2°) and this time (-2.8°) were record values, far below the normal value of +2.2°. This month was also very sunny, had little rain, and had a daily temperature range of 17.9°, a record for August.
Temperatures were close to normal. The daily maximum (19.8°) was a degree above normal, and the daily minimum (1.9°) was a degree below normal.
The total rainfall of 13.8 mm (20th percentile) was far below the August average (40 mm). Added to the low total for July (13.2 mm), the two-month total is only 27.0 mm, which is at the 6th percentile. That makes it the first serious rainfall shortage of any duration since October 2015, when the 30-month total had been at the 6th percentile. For two-month rainfall totals, there has not been such a shortage since nearly four years ago (September 2013).

Climate graph for August


Data. A Bureau of Meteorology automatic rain gauge operates in the museum yard. From 17 March 2017, 9 am daily readings are published as Manilla Museum, Station 55312.  These reports use that rainfall data when it is available. All other data, including subsoil at 750 mm, are from 3 Monash Street, Manilla.

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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

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, this 6-month total 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.

Still hot and dry in November 2014

Silky oak trees in full bloom

November Silky Oaks

Although the month began near normal, with two rain days, the weather became hot and dry again. Saturday the 22nd reached 41.4°, to be the second hottest November day on this 15-year record.
There were two heat waves, with the average weekly temperature above normal by 6.1° on the 12th and by 7.0° on Sunday the 23rd. (November of 2009 had a worse heat wave, being above normal by 9.5°, and reaching 31.3°: the hottest week in any month.)
Most nights this month were warm, with low dew points. By contrast, many days were cloudy.

 Weather log November 2014

Comparing November months

On average, the month was not quite as hot as November 2009, the hottest this century. The air was again very dry, with an early morning dew point of 7.1°, a little higher than the lowest value (5.7°) recorded for November last year.
Following only three years after the wettest November on the 130-year record (242.9 mm), the total rainfall of only 24 mm was in the 15th percentile. That is, such low November rainfalls happen about one year in seven. However, the time since a lower November rainfall (15 mm in November 1990) is thirteen years: the longest gap ever.
For the third month in a row, little changed in rainfall totals for periods of more than one month. There is no longer a serious shortage in the 6-month total (now in the 10th percentile) but there are now serious shortages in the totals for 5 months (9th percentile), 9 months (8th percentile), 15 months (6th percentile), 18 months (6th percentile), and 30 months (9th percentile). There is one severe shortage: the total for 12 months (393 mm) is in the 4th percentile.

Climate fro November 2014


Data. Rainfall data is from Manilla Post Office, courtesy of Phil Pinch. Temperatures, including subsoil at 750 mm, and other data are from 3 Monash  Street, Manilla.

October 2014 hot and dry

Blooms of Melia azedarach

Fragrant white cedar blooms

The month began with a warm spell, which was followed by a cool spell about the 15th. It ended with a long hot spell, 4.8 degrees above normal, including the hottest October day this century (38.1°) on the 26th. As usual, there were no frosts.

Of three rain days (usually seven), only the 14th had much rain: 26.4 mm, with heavy showers.
Half the mornings had no cloud at all, and nine days had very wide temperature ranges, greater than 20°.

Weather log October 2014

 Comparing October months

This was the hottest October month at Manilla in this 16-year record. Maximum, mean and minimum temperatures were all highest values, but the maximum was no higher than in October 2007. The subsoil temperature returned to a value below normal.
As indicators of low moisture, the daily temperature range was very high and cloudiness and dew point were very low, as in the last two October months. Even less cloud had been seen in 2002 and 2004.
Recently, lower rainfall occurred in October 2002 (15.0 mm), 2012 (12.6 mm), and 2013 (15.0 mm). However, this month’s total of 27.0 mm is well below the October average of 58 mm, in the 21st percentile. Since last month, little has changed in rainfall totals for periods of more than one month. There is still a serious shortage in the 6-month total (8th percentile) but not now in the 9-month total (10th percentile). The 15-month total has advanced to severe (4th percentile), while the 18-month total has retreated to serious (5th percentile). A serious shortage has also appeared in the 30-month total (8th percentile).

Climate October 2014  


Data. Rainfall data is from Manilla Post Office, courtesy of Phil Pinch. Temperatures, including subsoil at 750 mm, and other data are from 3 Monash  Street, Manilla.

September 2014 cool and dry

Acacia decora hedge

A hedge of western golden wattle

The daily weather log

Two 5-day cool spells began on the 2nd and the 17th. Days and nights were both three or four degrees cooler than normal. At the same time, the air was very dry: a new lowest September dew point of minus 8.1° came on the 19th.
At other times, temperatures were near normal. There were four frosts (normally three). There were four rain days, which is normal.
The first thirty-degree day since mid-winter came on the 30th. At Manilla, it often comes near the spring equinox (September 22nd). In the 21st century, the first thirty-degree day came as early as August 23rd in 2009 and as late as November 9th in 2010.

Weather log September 2014.

 Comparing September months

Last September had been the warmest in this century. While not cold like September 2004, this month was half a degree cooler than normal. Like September in 2003, 2007, and 2012, it was both cool and dry. By contrast, the cool Septembers of 2010 and 2011 were wet, affected by La Nina.
Cloudiness and daily temperature range were near normal, but the mean dew point (1.4°) was not much higher than the extreme low value (0.6°) set last year.
The total rainfall of 18.8 mm is in the 26th percentile, well below the September average of 41 mm. Totals for periods of more than one month now have serious shortages for six months (7th percentile), nine months (7th percentile), and fifteen months (5th percentile), and a severe shortage for eighteen months (4th percentile).

The current drought report (6/10/2014) of the Bureau of Meteorology shows some serious and severe rainfall deficiencies in the area. Ten-month deficiencies extend west to Manilla from the Northern Tablelands, and there are 24-month rainfall deficiencies near Manilla and widespread around Walgett, 300 km to the north-west.

Climate September 2014.  


Data. Rainfall data is from Manilla Post Office, courtesy of Phil Pinch. Temperatures, including subsoil at 750 mm, and other data are from 3 Monash  Street, Manilla.

Extremely Arid October 2013

October’s climate was even more desert-like than this September or October last year. Afternoon humidity (normally 30%) was only 13.1%, which is the lowest value in ANY month in the last eight years. The early morning dew point of 0.5° was the lowest October value this century, and 7.8° below normal, a record anomaly value for any month. This very dry air often came with strong winds. Most of north-west NSW was affected.

The daily weather logWeather log October 2013.

The second of two warm spells brought weekly temperatures three degrees above normal. Each warm spell ended with a night above 20°. Three mornings from the 25th were exceptionally dry, having dew points of minus 7.2°, minus 8.0°, and minus 7.6°. (The record: minus 9.3° on 17/5/11.)
There were three rain days: the 2nd with 13.8 mm, and the 18th and 30th with 0.6 mm each.

Comparing October monthsClimate October 2013.

October’s days were not quite as warm as in 2007. Dryness was marked by low rainfall, little cloud, and wide daily temperature range, but most remarkably by the record low dew point and relative humidity.
At 21.0°, the subsoil was warmer than in any other October month. It was 1.6° above normal.
The total rainfall of 15.0 mm was in only the 12th percentile, far below the average of 58 mm. The three and four month rainfall totals (41 mm; 71 mm) are now severe shortages, in the 3rd and 4th percentiles.


Data. Rainfall data is from Manilla Post Office, courtesy of Phil Pinch. Temperatures, including subsoil at 750 mm, and other data are from 3 Monash Street, Manilla.