Warm summer predicted, despite cool start

The coming spell of warmer, drier weather may suit beach-goers, but the forecast is not ideal for farmers and fire fighters.

NIWA’s Annual Climate Summary was released yesterday, and its seasonal climate outlook was released on Friday.

Its principal scientist of forecasting, Chris Brandolino, said it was premature to write off summer just yet, but acknowledged it was off to a slow start.

He said temperatures over the past 15 days had been “sharply cooler” than average over much of the central and northern parts of the South Island and had been cooler than average in the North Island, especially in the lower and western parts.

But he said the good news was that on average over the first quarter of the year, temperatures were equally likely to be average or above average in the north and east of the North Island and the east of the South Island.

However he said it was not good news for some farmers, with rainfall expectations below normal for the north of the North Island this month.

“This time of the year we’re losing moisture from the ground to the atmosphere which is called evopotranspiration.

“This time of year we’re losing around 4mm – some places more – per day. So over a 10-day period that’s 40mm of moisture the ground gives up to the atmosphere.

“And, like any budget, if you’re giving more away than you’re taking in, you’re going to be at a deficit.”

Mr Brandolino said the next week-and-a-half rainfall totals for most of the North Island are likely to be near or below just 10mm, a critical figure.

He said up until March there are equal chances of rainfall being either below normal or near normal for the entire North Island.

Waikato Federated Farmers provincial president Chris Lewis said it was not ideal, but farmers expected dry spells in summer.

“In these conditions farmers are generally well prepared. They’ve made silage in the springtime to conserve for periods of slow growth.

“If they need to, farmers will put a plan in place to accommodate any problems and provide a solution.”

National rural fire officer Kevin O’Connor said heavy rainfall in spring saw a big buildup in ‘fuel’ – grasses and small scrub species – but it was now starting to dry out and the risk of fire was rapidly increasing.

“It’s much easier to get a fire going and it’s much much harder to put it out.

“The chances of that fire getting out of control when there’s a lot of fuel there is much higher.”

Mr O’Connor said because of this, there were several restrictions across the country.

He said although there were ongoing issues with lanterns and fireworks, the public were generally quite vigilant.

He said if people were unsure about fire restrictions in their areas they could go to checkitsalright.nz.