Friday, October 27, 2006

Is it the worst drought on record?

Drought, the buzz word at the moment is hitting Australian farmers hard. In Queensland, the government are meeting to give assistance to the farmers. Telstra are giving farmers more time to pay their bills, and the ABARE says that the current drought will cost Australia over $6.2 billion.

John Howard has been listening to heart wrenching dry stories , even golf courses are effected and if it’s not the hot dry that’s ruining crops, it’s the freezing cold as well:

Thanks to Andrew Bolt who writes that Deputy Premier of Victoria John Thwaites says that

So all the evidence points to a significant involvement of global warming in the present drought.

Professor Peter Cullen, a National Water Commission member and top government adviser, who gloated that, thanks to the drought,

flat earth skeptics who have been in denial about climate change are now realising that wishing it away didn’t work

So what is a drought exactly? According to the dictionary it’s a period of dry weather, e.g. no rain. Given that, it makes perfect sense that this terrible time of lack of rain we are experiencing now would show up in the data. I mean, after all, that’s why we all say there’s a drought right? – not just from some people’s opinion on it all.

Let’s check out the stats.

According to the ABM, the graph on the left shows Australia’s rainfall patterns since 1900. If anything the longer trend tends to suggest an increase in rainfall over this period. However the result when testing is not significant (F = 1.25, p = 0.266). Hence we can conclude that Australia’s rainfall has not significantly increased or decreased over time.

But we are talking about global warming aren’t we? Well here’s the graph which talks about global rainfall on the left. Hmm, no real pattern there either. If anything, it's cyclic.

Could it be, that with the last 4 years having less rainfall than previously (but still remember not significantly less), that individuals are complaining of lack of water because it didn’t quite get to the levels of the 5 years before that? Or is this trend simply natural? Like when animals hide food for when times are tough, were these farmers spending their water expecting the same big waters of the 5-10 year ago stage, and still spending their water in the same way, expecting the downpours, not getting them, and them claiming drought and handouts from the government?

If the rain patterns show no long term reduction, then where’s the drought? Where?

More on this, with more detail soon.

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