Archive for January, 2017

Unprecedented South Australian Weather!

January 22, 2017

(and it has been like that for 178 years!)

There were more blackouts in South Australia a couple of days ago following a wild storm.  In a report in the Adelaide Advertiser, SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts is quoted:

“This is just another example of the unprecedented weather in the last six months,” Mr Roberts said, referring to bouts of wild weather that have hit power supplies hard this summer and the preceding spring.

21mm of rain was measured at the Kent Town gauge.

Just how “unprecedented” is Adelaide’s weather over the past few months?  I couldn’t find any records for the number of severe storms, so for a proxy I have made do with rainfall data from West Terrace and Kent Town in Adelaide.  The overlap period has very similar rainfall recordings so I joined the two series to give a record starting on 1 January 1839.  That’s 178 years of data.

When thinking about “unprecedented”, we need to check amount, intensity, and frequency.

Firstly, a few plots to give some context.  How unprecedented was Thursday’s storm?

Fig. 1: Rainfall for the first 21 days of January compared with Days 1 – 21 of every year


Note Thursday’s rainfall had less rain than four previous occasions on this day alone, and 20 or so in previous Januarys.

Fig. 2: Rainfall for each day of 2016 compared with each day of every year:


Note the December storm had extreme rain (for Adelaide) but not a record.

Amount and intensity has been higher in many previous years.  141.5mm was recorded on 7 February 1925.

Fig. 3: 7 day average rainfall over the years:


The topmost dot shows the maximum 7 day average for each year.  2016 got to 13.4mm on 4 October- multiply by 7 to get the weekly total rain.  Note there were many wet and dry periods all through the record.

21mm of rain fell in a severe storm on Thursday, so I arbitrarily chose 20mm as my criterion for heavy rainfall in one day as a probable indicator of stormy weather.  I am the first to admit that 20mm might fall steadily all day and not be at all associated with wild winds, and wild winds can occur without any rain, but bear with me.

Fig. 4: Rain over 20mm throughout the year:


There seems to be no increase in amount or intensity of rain at any time of the year.

Fig. 5: Frequency:


Note 2016 had 7 days with above 20mm in 24 hours.  That’s the most since… 2000, when there were 8 days- and many previous years had 7 or 8 days, and 1889 had 9.  So no increase in frequency.

However, Mr Roberts was referring to the last six months, spring and summer.  So let’s look at rain events over 20mm from July to December, firstly amounts recorded:

Fig. 6: July to December Rain over 20mm:


Nothing unusual about 2016.

Fig. 7:  Frequency of heavy rain July – December:


1973, 1978, and 1992 had the same or more days with over 20mm.

I now restrict the count to spring and summer only:

Fig. 8:  Spring and Summer frequency:


Not unprecedented: 1992 had one more.  Add in last Thursday’s event to make them equal.


Adelaide has a long climate record, showing daily rainfall has varied greatly over the years.  There is no recent increase in amount, intensity, or frequency for the whole year, or for the last six months or four months.  Spring and summer rainfall in 2016 was not unprecedented, and to the extent that spring and summer falls over 20mm are a proxy for storms, there is no evidence for an increase in wild weather.  This is normal.  Get used to it, Mr Roberts, and make sure the electricity network can cope.


The Pause Update: December 2016

January 5, 2017

The complete UAH v6.0 data for December have been released. I present all the graphs for various regions, and as well summaries for easier comparison. The Pause has ended globally and for the Northern Hemisphere, and the Tropics, and may soon disappear from the USA, and the Southern Hemisphere.  The 12 month mean to December 2016 for the Globe is +0.50 C.

These graphs show the furthest back one can go to show a zero or negative trend (less than 0.1 +/-0.1C per 100 years) in lower tropospheric temperatures. I calculate 12 month running means to remove the small possibility of seasonal autocorrelation in the monthly anomalies. Note: The satellite record commences in December 1978- now 38 years and one month long- 457 months. 12 month running means commence in November 1979. The y-axes in the graphs below are at December 1978, so the vertical gridlines denote Decembers. The final plotted points are December 2016.




The Pause has ended. A trend of +0.32 C/100 years (+/- 0.1C) since March 1998 is creeping up, but the 12 month means have peaked and are heading down.

And, for the special benefit of those who think that I am deliberately fudging data by using 12 month running means, here is the plot of monthly anomalies:


That’s since December 1997.

Northern Hemisphere:


The Northern Hemisphere Pause has well and truly ended.

Southern Hemisphere:


For well over half the record, the Southern Hemisphere still has zero trend.  The Pause is about to end.



The Pause in the Tropics (20N to 20S) has ended and the minimal trend is now +.32C/ 100 years.  12 month means peaked mid-year.

As Tropical Oceans closely mimic the Tropics overall, I won’t show their plot.

Northern Extra Tropics:


The minimal trend is up to +0.6C/ 100 years.

Southern Extra Tropics:


The Pause persists strongly, however 12 month means are still rising.

Northern Polar:


The trend has increased a lot to +2.35C and since February 2003 +0.88C/100 years.

Southern Polar:


The South Polar region has been cooling for the entire record.

USA 49 States:


The Pause has shortened again and is about to disappear altogether.



The Pause is still 21 years 5 months, and means have peaked.  Will the Australian Pause survive where others have failed?

The next graphs summarise the above plots. First, a graph of the relative length of The Pause in the various regions:


Note that the Pause has ended by my criteria in all regions of Northern Hemisphere, and consequently the Globe, and the Tropics, but all southern regions have a Pause for over half the record, including the South Polar region which has been cooling for the whole record.

The variation in the linear trend for the whole record, 1978 to the present:


Note the decrease in trends from North Polar to South Polar.

And the variation in the linear trend since June 1998, which is about halfway between the global low point of December 1997 and the peak in December 1998:


The imbalance between the two hemispheres is obvious. The lower troposphere over Australia has been strongly cooling for more than 18 years- just shy of half the record.

Global TLT anomalies are now dropping rapidly.  The next few months will be interesting. The Pause will disappear from the USA and Southern Hemisphere soon, but not the Southern Extra-Tropics or Australia. El Nino tropical heat is strongly affecting the North Polar region now, and will affect the Southern Hemisphere early this year.