H.C. Russell: Periodicity of Good and Bad Seasons – Part 2

Posted: June 25, 2014 by tallbloke in Analysis, Astronomy, Cycles, data, History, solar system dynamics, weather, wind

Thanks to commenter ‘psc3113’ for finding the concluding part of HC Russells’ paper on a lunar 19 year cycle in drought records, taken from The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939)  Saturday 4 July 1896. At the conclusion of the article, the probably cause of the 19 year cycle identified is elucidated.

Periodicity of Good and Bad Seasons
(Continued from last Week.)

Hurricanes Come in Droughts.
I should like it to be clearly understood that I do not mean ordinary hurricanes, which are as much parts of ordinary weather conditions in some parts of the world as our southerly winds are here. What I mean are extraordinary hurricanes, those that come at long intervals to terrify mankind by their power for destruction. These are connected with droughts, and, therefore should be discussed here. I had long since observed that the connection between the two was obvious enough sometimes, and during the past year I was reminded of it very often by the frequent reports of heavy gales met with by ships coming to this port, indicating great atmospheric energy. Then on the 3rd January, 1803, came the hurricane over the Tongan group of islands, and not one of the vessels in the harbour rode out the storm; every one of them was wrecked in the harbour before morning, and the wind was of such exceptional violence that after it was over the islands looked as if they had been bombarded.

Then I turned to storms on this coast, some of which were of terrible violence. And as I write, the 28th ‘May, we have the report of a terrible cyclone in America, by which three of the States, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were damaged and the city of St. Louis wrecked. and 1300 people killed by falling buildings, and damage to property caused to the extent, estimated, of twenty million dollars; another fragment of the present D drought.

And as I looked, memory ran over the storms of the past, and picked out the most, terrible gale of which we have any record in Australia—namely, the Dandenong storm, on 10th September 1876, just nineteen years before 1895, a storm in which, a very fine steamer, the Dandenong, going to Melbourne, foundered, and all hands were lost. In parts of the storm gusts of wind reached 140 and 153 miles per hour. Then the Oawarra gale, a most furious easterly storm, in which this fine steamer was wrecked at the entrance to Newcastle, New South Wales on 12th July 1866 in the great drought period which we have called A. And on going back another step, I remembered the loss of the Dunbar at Sydney heads, in a tremendous easterly gale on the 20th August, 1857, just nineteen years before -the Dandenong was wrecked. It is not my purpose to describe these wrecks. I only recall them as five most memorable that our short history affords, and the fact that they all occurred in our great drought periods set me searching history to see if great storms and droughts had any connection.

That there is such a connection seems a priori, extremely probable, because the great heat that accompanies a drought furnishes that additional impulse to the circulation of the wind which is necessary to urge it into violent storms ; for a comparatively small additional impulse over the large area of the equatorial regions would supply the energy necessary for these very violent local storms. The heat is a matter of common observation, and the hurricane is found by the careful observer to be something unusual, and possessed of a restless energy in drought times. It was soon found that the conditions observed in a few cases of my own experience were amply confirmed by a search which was carried back for 600 years. Sixty-two hurricanes were found, the greater majority being between 1700 and the present day, and only exceptionally violent hurricanes were selected, such as are quite distinct from the ordinary hurricane or storm, and when these came to be compared with the drought periods it was found that had every one occurred in a drought year; and further, that those of the greatest violence belong to the D drought, which is remarkable for its great heat and the energy of its winds.

Great Frosts.
Another interesting series of phenomena connected with droughts I find in the great frosts of Europe—the absence of cloud in these seasons, due to the dryness of the air, permits of extreme radiation at night, and hence great cold is frequent in drought winters, as heat of unusual severity is experienced in the summers, and it is another proof of the hold these drought periods have on the weather. But to follow the lists of the great frosts of Europe, collected by the celebrated Astronomer Arago—they were not collected for the purpose I am going to use them, but he selected all of them from ten centuries of European records —as there are only sixteen in 1000 years, it is safe to assume they were of exceptional severity, and they are so beyond question. Our present purpose with them, however, is to see whether they support in any way our theory.

Ten of them fall directly into the A drought, three of them fall directly into the D drought, and three into one of the minor droughts lettered E.

800, the Rhone was frozen over (end of a long A drought).
833, the Po was frozen over from Cremona to the sea (D).
1234, loaded wagons crossed the Adriatic on ice in front of Venice (E).
1305, all the rivers of France were frozen (D).
1324, people travelled from Denmark to Lubeck and Dantzic on the ice (D).
1334. all the rivers in the south-east of France, and all those of northern and central Italy, were frozen, and the frost lasted in Paris two months and twenty days (A).
1468, it was necessary to break up the wine in Flanders with hatchets, in order to serve it out to the soldiers, owing to the in tense cold (A).
1544, the wine in France frozen ; had to be broken up before issue to the soldiers (A).
1594, the Mediterranean was frozen over from Marseilles to Venice (E).
1657, the Seine was completely frozen over (A).
1742, the Seine was entirely frozen over (A).
1717. shops were established on the Thames (A). 17m). the Adriatic and the Mediterranean were frozen over (E).
1744, Seine entirely frozen over (A). 1766, Seine entirely frozen over (A).
1767, Seine entirely frozen over (A).

(A) ten, (D) three, (E) three.

The Dead Sea.
One finds it commonly stated in books that the Dead Sea is gradually drying up, and perhaps it is, but there are very considerable alterations in level in it; for Instance, Lieutenant Condor, when surveying Palestine, June 1872 to .Tune 1875, found it did change its level considerably, and at page 220 of “Tent Work in Palestine,” he states, “Sheikh Jemil, the most intelligent Arab near Jericho, told me that in his father’s time the sea did not generally reach further inland than the Rujum el Bahr. Whereas now the connecting causeway is always under water. This represents a rise of some 10ft. in the water level. In in fact, according to this statement, the sea had now (1873 or 1874) more water in it than it used to have half-a century ago.” From this it would seem more than probable that the Dead Sea followed the same course as Lake George, where the water gradually disappeared after 1826, was all gone in 1838, and remained only a shadow of its true self until 1852, when it began to fill up, and in 1874 attained its maximum flood. Lake Titicaca followed much the same order. So that we have here lakes in Asia, South America, and Australia drying up in the great droughts of 1828 and 1838. and during the small rainfall of the whole period 1525 to 1851.

Mr. Anderson, principal librarian of  the Public Library, has given me very cordial assistance In my search for particulars of the climate of Egypt, and as a consequence, I found in the works he brought under my notice records of droughts, or, as it is there termed, low Nile on nineteen years. Five belong to A drought in our cycle, and twelve belong to D ; that is, seventeen out of nineteen correspond with dry periods in New South Wales, and the other two correspond with one of our minor droughts ; and I see that, as in England, their weather change comes about a year before ours.

Breaks in Droughts.
It is not my purpose to-night to go into the details of the life of a drought ; I am writing to try to prove to you that there is a cycle which may be of the greatest use to us, and that alone. At another time I have to go into what might be called the personal history of the drought, but there is one feature of their history that bears so strangely upon their periodicity that I cannot defer it, although this matter more correctly belongs to their personal history. I refer to their sudden interruption by violent rains extending over small areas. You will see in what follows that this is a feature that comes in a certain month in each series A and D, and for the moment seems to break up the drought, but the drought nevertheless returns to complete its full course.

This break is a well-marked feature of droughts, and one that is very apt to, and very frequently does, mislead those who do not study the drought as a whole. A very good illustration of this has been before us quite recently in this D series. A very heavy rain storm came on in February, 1896, in. the north-western districts, as much as 10in. falling in a single night in some places. But when one comes to look, carefully at the character of the rain, we find that the most marked feature of it is that it is not general, but made up of a series of violent local storms, each confined to small areas, but widely separated from one another, and connected only by comparatively light, rains ; and further, that these stormbursts, as they are sometimes called, discharge the rain so rapidly that it has not time to sink in, but runs away to the nearest watercourse, and, therefore, fails to do that amount of good which we should expect from the quantity measured.

Unfortunately, one cannot, as a rule, learn the area of. these storms; but many circumstances, such as the absence of the same heavy rain at neighbouring stations, indicate the fact, and sometimes they cover only a small part of one station. I may illustrate what I mean, both as to the area covered by the rain and the immense quantity that comes down, by the experience of a friend, Mr. L. S. Donaldson, in 1869. One of the most remarkable and best known rain storms inland occurred in the end of January, 1885, when we were right in the middle of A drought.

The storm came in at the north-west corner of the colony, and travelled thence in an east-south-east direction, straight across New South Wales to the sea, depositing from 6in. to llin. in a day and a-half as it passed on. From the central line of heaviest rain which passed over Wilcannia, the quantity of rain fell off rapidly, so that at Bourke the river rose only 4ft., while at Wilcannia it rose 28ft. But the rain messenger, having made its way over the colony, drought again took possession, and it did not break until the middle of the year 1886.

Just nineteen years before this storm of 1885, a very similar storm passed over Bourke in January, 1866 (again in A drought). Very heavy rain fell, but the river did not rise much, although the rain lasted two days, showing that the river area was small. Nineteen years before this there is no record (that is, in 1847) of what took place in the then unoccupied Darling country 5 but it is worth mentioning as evidence so far, that there was such a storm in the West, that an exactly similar storm passed over the Paterson River on the 17th January, 1847, just as the one in 1885 passed over Lake George and deposited Sin. of rain there. At Paterson it rained so heavily during the day that the river rose higher than it had ‘been for some years before.

I have already alluded to the recent (February. 1896) rain storm over Bourke and the Bogan country and its remarkably patchy character. It is worthwhile adding that it is evident from the few records available (only two stations west of the Darling) that a similar storm occurred in February 1877; for in February Momba station had a storm and 4in. of rain, and Yancania 71/2in. in the same way nineteen years before that of the present year. 1896.

In 1858 no one on the Darling River thought of rainfall records, and the few notes left by those who were taking up the country there do not help us at all, but Dr. Glennie’s record at the Paterson again comes to our aid. and tells us that on the 2nd February. 1858, a most tremendous rain and hail storm with thunder and lightning passed over the Paterson. I mention these peculiar rain stovtns just to show how they repeat themselves an notable parts of the weather at intervals of nlneteeu years, and it is to be noted that in A droughts the storm came in January, and D series in February. I will add just one more, because it is in a short, sharp drought which only lasted a year, and finds its type in 1888.

In that year, on the 8th February, a very heavy rain storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning; came into the colony from the north, and reached Moree at 7.45 p.m. on that day. So heavy was it that the whole of the surrounding country was flooded, and the local rain caused a rise in the river of 10ft. It spread over the Namol. Macquiarie, and Bogan rivers, but did not go south of Dubbo. Just nineteen years before, in February, 1869, Mr L. S. Donaldson, P.M., who was then living on the Bogan, tells me that the February, 1896, storm reminded him. of a heavy flood rain in the former year. It was, he says, not so extensive as the recent ones, but on that occasion the rain fell at Moonagie, near Cannonbar. The River Bogan was dry throughout its course, except a waterhole at long intervals. The rain fell over only about a mile and a half of the river, and for only about one hour ; but such a quantity of rain fell (we had no rain gauges then) that the river ran for seventy miles into a long waterhole at Gongolgon. The rain was accompanied by large hailstones, which went through verandas, and killed emus and kangaroos, and stripped all the leaves off the trees till they looked like English trees in winter.

Good Seasons.
Looking at the diagram, we find that there are as many good seasons as bad ones. Some of these recur with great regularity. For instance, the two years immediately before the commencement of A drought, and likewise the two years immediately following D drought. Then there are three good years together that come, as a rule, four years after the centre of A drought. There regularity is made uncertain by the irregularity of the end of A drought. The first mentioned above is the first of the following series, the second follows D. and the third follows A.

1787-8 1802-3 1794-5-6
1806-7 1821-2 1813-4-5
1825-6 1840-1 1832-3-4 J
1844-5 1859-0 1851-2-3
1863-4 1878-9 1870-1-2
1882-3 1897-8 1889-90-1

In 1893 we had the lowest grass temperature on record, and a very wet year on the coast, although inland it was dry. The series runs—on the coast :

1893, heavy floods, lowest grass temperature on
1874, many heavy floods. 1855, no record of this year.
1836, abundance of rain : snow fell in Sydney.
1817, high floods on the coast and inland.
1798, ” wet, and in July uncommon cold.”

It thus appears that good years precede and follow great droughts in the cycle, and while D carries its heat and its winds with it, the 1893 series carries its floods and its low temperatures.

I have thus endeavoured to put be fore you the reasons which have convinced me that there is a cycle in weather, but the necessity for brevity in order to keep the proof within the limits of one address, has rendered it necessary to express in a few sentences the results of many separate investigations, and the evidence does not seem so strong when thus condensed as it does when a number of facts one by one are brought to light from divers sources, all of which individually support the proposition. I can assure you that the evidence was far more convincing when taken in detail, but want of time to get these details into one address makes this course impossible. Enough appears to have been said to prove that the cycle does exist and to show you the very great importance of this rediscovery of a law of climate, which there are many reasons to think was well known to the Jews, the Egyptians, and other ancient peoples. They at least knew how to forecast droughts successfully, and in Egypt, like sensible people, made provision for them.

We have in the diagram, the weather of 100 years of New South Wales climate, arranged in order of date (the intensity for the time being overlooked) The black spaces above the line represent the good years, while the red spaces below the line represent the bad years. It is evident upon inspection that certain features of it recur every nineteen years. We have seen that the droughts of history, the great and conspicuous droughts I mean, all drop into this same cycle, both those that happened foefore the birth of Christ and those that have occurred in our era. For instance, Elijah’s drought happened in B.C. 908—that is. 2736 before our great drought in 1828. and the interval is 19 x 144. We have seen that great hurricanes, the great frosts of history, all tho red rains, and all the droughts that history records, with a very few exceptions, likewise are included in this cycle, and that the level of great lakes in Palestine, South America, and New South Wales are subject to the same mysteri ous influence that controls our weather, and a search for the cause has not been forgotten.

The Cause of droughts.
As my investigation proceeded, the weight of evidence gradually converged upon the moon as the exciting cause. I have never had any sympathy with the theory of lunar influence upon weather, and received, rather against my will, the evidence that presented itself, but the logic of facts left no alternative but to accept the moon as prime motor. There has not been time to complete this investigation, and when finished it must form another paper. Meantime, I may say that so far the comparison of the moon’s positions in relation to the sun and earth and droughts shows that when the eclipses congregate about the equinoxes, that is in March and September, they do so in the years which give us great droughts, the A’s and D’s of our series.

Further that when the eclipses accumulate in February and March, that is at the vernal equinox, and the month be fore it, and the autumnal equinox, and the month before it, August, we have the more intense and relatively shorter D droughts, with heat, gales, and hurricanes. On the other hand, when they accumulate, about March and April, that is the month of equinox, and October following it, we have A droughts, that are less severe but much longer that the D droughts.

But I must stop for the present. I have already pointed out the use of the diagram, and a few words in reference to it will close what I have to say to-night. I have spoken chiefly of droughts, but so far as our own history is concerned it would have showed the purpose just as well if I had taken up the periodicity of wet years, but outside Australia it would have been very difficult to get the necessary data. for history has much more to say about the horrors of drought than the abundance of wet seasons. The diagram presents one fact that will be of interest to many in this droughty time ; it is the forecast of good seasons in 1897 and 1898.

Sun Spots.
For convenient reference I have put on the diagram the maxima and minima of the sun spots. You will see at once that the recurrence of the period is very far from being the regular eleven years cycle which many persons suppose it to be, and is equally far from being in accordance with the cycle that I have endeavoured to demonstrate to-night.

The Sun’s Surroundings.
No one can look at photographs and drawings of the sun in total eclipse without noticing the extreme irregularity of the envelope sometimes. At one side of the sun there may be hardly any. while on another side it will extend 150,000 or 200,000 miles away. Astronomers are generally agreed that this envelope is matter surrounding the sun and reflecting so much of his light; if then it can stop and reflect the sun light, and can do the same with the heat rays, so that if the earth was in a line with these extensions of the envelope it must, receive less light and heat, and thus have its climatic conditions altered.  I am not saying that it is so. but from the frequency of the occurrence of these irregular sun envelopes (you can judge for yourself from the enlarged pictures of two of these envelopes now on the screen) it seems extremely probable that the earth is so placed at times. Witness the regular cold snap in May, which comes with astronomical regularity. But I must not say more about it now ; a whole evening might be spent over it.

  1. Kevin Hearle says:

    It would be interesting to put a 19 year cycle into David Evans model if that is possible.