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.


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.”

Drought Fifth Month: July 2018

Rainfall status June and July 2018

Rainfall shortages at June and July 2018.[Note 13/8/18. The large graph above is an  amended graph. Values in mm are unchanged, but percentile values have been recalculated. The 4-month and 5-month percentile values now plot as less extreme than before. The original graph is on the right.]

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 July, are shown by a black line with black circles. Those from one month earlier, at the end of June, 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”.]

[A graph showing shortages at the end of August is in a later post: “Drought Sixth Month; August 2018”.]

Extreme shortages

At Manilla, the drought is now extreme by several measures.
At the end of July 2018, rainfall shortages are extreme for 3 months (15 mm), 4 months (33 mm) and 5 months (58 mm). “Extreme shortage” means that Manilla has seen such shortages less than 1% of the time since 1883.
Since the end of June, rainfall totals have fallen lower for periods of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 months. The 5-month total fell most remarkably. It had been 121 mm, not even a “severe” shortage (below the 5th percentile), but merely a “serious” shortage (below the 10th percentile). It has now fallen to only 58 mm, which is an “extreme” shortage (below the 1st percentile). It is not much higher than the lowest ever 5-month rainfall total of 29 mm, a record set 130 years ago in 1888.

The graph makes it clear that we are now in the fifth month of an extreme drought.

Long-term shortages

At this date, there are no extreme rainfall shortages measured over periods longer than five months. However, there are some severe shortages below the fifth percentile rank. Should rainfall continue to be below average, these shortages could also become extreme. The current twelve-month total of 346 mm needs to fall only 19 mm (to 327 mm) to become an extreme shortage. The 6-year rainfall total (3234 mm) is a severe shortage lower than any since 1962. Rainfall shortages measured over periods of a year or more will not maintain groundwater levels or river flows.


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.”

 

Rainfall Shortages up to June 2018

Rainfall shortage Manilla, June 2018

Since the twelve-month drought of 2002, Manilla has been free from extreme rainfall shortage until now. Such a long gap between extreme droughts has not been seen here before. [See Note below: Dry May 2006.]

Rainfall shortages now

On this graph the black line with black squares shows Manilla rainfall shortages at the end of June 2018. Shortages are shown for short terms down to one month, and for long terms up to 360 months (30 years).

[Shortages at the end of May are shown in a previous post.]

[A graph showing shortages at the end of July is in a later post: “Drought Fifth Month; July 2018”.]

Extreme shortages

Three extreme rainfall shortages have now developed, all below the 1st percentile rank:
Total for two months (May and June): 6 mm;
Total for three months (April, May and June): 24 mm;
Total for four months (March, April, May and June): 50 mm.

Severe shortages

There were five severe shortages in rainfall totals as follows:
Total for six months: 141 mm, at the 4th percentile;
Total for twelve months: 350 mm, at the 2nd percentile;
Total for fifteen months: 492 mm, at the 3rd percentile;
Total for sixty months: 2672 mm, at the 4th percentile;
Total for seventy-two months: 3317 mm, at the 4th percentile.

Serious shortages

Some other rainfall shortages were not severe, but serious:
Total for one month: 5.2 mm, at the 7th percentile;
Total for five months: 120 mm, at the 6th percentile;
Total for nine months: 464 mm, at the 10th percentile;
Total for eighteen months: 658 mm, at the 6th percentile.

Comparing June 2018 with the month before

Continue reading

Rainfall Shortages up to May 2018

Rainfall shortage Manilla May 2018

Rainfall shortages now

On this graph the black line with black squares shows Manilla rainfall shortages at the end of May 2018. Shortages are shown for short terms down to one month, and for long terms up to 360 months (30 years).

Extreme shortages

There were no extreme rainfall shortages at this date.

Severe shortages

There were severe shortages in rainfall totals as follows:
Total for one month (May): 1.2 mm, at the 2nd percentile;
Total for two months (April and May): 19 mm, at the 3rd percentile;
Total for three months (March, April and May): 45 mm, at the 4th percentile.

Serious shortages

Some other rainfall shortages were not severe, but serious:
Total for five months: 136 mm, at the 9th percentile;
Total for twelve months: 408 mm, at the 6th percentile;
Total for sixty months: 2765 mm, at the 8th percentile;
Total for seventy-two months: 3358 mm, at the 6th percentile.

General shortage

The first comment and reply below notes the fact that no rainfall total for any period reaches the 50th percentile. This has not happened for seventy years (1947).

[Later data

The following graph in this series is in the post: “Rainfall Shortages up to June 2018”.]

Comparing May 2018 with September 2017

The graph also has a grey line showing similar rainfall shortages at September 2017 (See the earlier post “A drought has begun”.). In the following month, October, there were no rainfall shortages, because the rainfall, 84 mm, was far above average. November, December and February also had rainfalls above average.
Since March 2018, shortages have appeared again. By comparing the black line (May 2018) with the grey line (September 2017), you can see that the rainfall totals are now lower for nearly all periods of time. Only four totals are now higher, including the 4-month total.

What are the classes of rainfall shortage?

We need to compare rainfall shortages. The best way is not by how far below normal the rainfall is, but by how rare it is. That is, not by the percentage of normal rainfall, but by the percentile value. As an example, when the rainfall is at the fifth percentile, that means that only five percent of all such rainfall measurements were lower than that.
Once the percentile values have been worked out for the rainfall record, each new reading can be given its percentile value. Percentile values of low rainfall are classed as extreme, severe, or serious.
For a rainfall shortage to be classed as extreme, its value must be at or below the 1st percentile.
A severe rainfall shortage is one that is below the 5th percentile.
A serious rainfall shortage is one that is below the 10th percentile.
A rainfall shortage that is above the 10th percentile is not counted as serious.

Long-lasting rainfall shortages

Rainfall shortages sometimes last a long time. The same classes of shortage are used for long periods, such as a year, as for short periods, such as a month. They depend on how rare such a shortage is on the average, and they all use the same percentile values to separate extreme, severe, and serious rainfall shortages.