Indian Rainfall and Sun-spots

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Abstract

I HAVE observed no notice in NATURE1 of an important discussion which took place a month ago at one of the Royal Society's meetings on Dr. W. W. Hunter's report on the cycle of rainfall in India, and its coincidence with the periods of eleven years disclosed by sun-spot observations. As one interested in solar research I have carefully considered that report, and I think the author has made out a case within the limits which he assigns to himself. The application of the mathematical law of errors has not altered this opinion in my mind, and from a consideration of the whole subject I have been led to the following conclusions:—In the first place I would remark that in certain meteorological elements, of which the rainfall throughout the world is probably one, and the barometer in these latitudes is another, oscillations which we regard as non-periodic, are very large compared with periodic variations. The consequence will be that in dealing with a series of barometric observations in these latitudes, the mean difference of individual observations from the mean of the whole series, or in other words, the mean irregularity, will not be materially modified by the introduction of the comparatively small semi-diurnal variation. But this is no argument against the existence of such a variation, nor is the fact that at Madras the mean rainfall irregularity is not greatly reduced by the introduction of an eleven-yearly cycle any argument against the existence of such a cycle. As a matter of fact, this mean irregularity is reduced, although perhaps not very markedly by the introduction of this cycle. The true test of a physical cycle is its repetition, and, since in the present important aspect of this question we cannot, perhaps, calmly wait for other sixty-four years' observations before venturing a conclusion, let us now endeavour to break these sixty-four years up into periods, and see whether we obtain any traces of physical persistence from this method. Grouping, as Dr. Hunter has done, the sixty-four years' Madras rainfall into series of eleven years, beginning with the first in 1813, we obtain the following table:—

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STEWART, B. Indian Rainfall and Sun-spots. Nature 16, 161 (1877) doi:10.1038/016161b0

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