Warm and dry weather predicted to last into autumn
"Even bad marriages have good days" - this is how NIWA climatologist Chris Brandolino is describing this season's El Nino.
He said that although rain had eased conditions for a lot of regions, predictions for a drier than normal summer remained.
NIWA's latest forecast for January to March says El Nino conditions will last until the beginning of autumn and then swiftly decay.
Chances are that in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, and Wairarapa, temperatures will be above normal and rainfall below normal.
The drought-stricken regions of north Canterbury and other east coast centres will see higher temperatures and about normal rainfall.
Brandolino said although today's soil moisture deficit map looks better than last year's, the situation could change fast.
Niwa's drought index map for New Zealand showing the historical soil moisture deficit average, left, the deficit at the same time last year, centre, and the latest situation at 9am on Tuesday, December 15. Source: Niwa
The rate at which moisture evaporates out of the ground on a hot day is about 3 millimetres a day.
The likelihood of tropical cyclones is also elevated for the next few months, which could hit northern areas hard, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry for Primary Industries director of resource policy David Wansbrough said the recent rain, particularly in Canterbury and Marlborough, was a great morale booster.
"Crop farmers have had a better start to the year, as any good rainfall like this really helps new crop growth. But where pasture has died from over a year of dry weather, more rain will be needed to break the drought and it will be months before production recovers.
"Much of Otago was less lucky and didn't receive the rainfall of their northerly neighbours. In the Strath Taieri, some locals are saying it's the driest they have ever seen it," Wansborough said.
An increasingly dry Northland did particularly well out of last week's deluge, getting up to 80mm of rain, but has since been hammered by strong easterly winds, which hastens the soil drying out and can damage some crops.
Rural Support Trusts are saying that the financial and emotional impacts of the drought are starting to pinch for some farmers. Farmers and their families can contact their local Rural Support Trusts on 0800 787 254 for advice and information. Federated Farmers feedline on 0800 376 844 can help get feed to drought-hit farms.