Some farmers face a dry summer

19:30, Jan 08 2014

Drier than normal soils in much of Waikato and western Northland are raising concerns after last summer's destructive drought, while Wellington residents might be surprised to learn they had good weather for much of December.

In its monthly climate summary for December, Niwa said that by the start of January soils were drier than normal across western and central parts of the North Island, particularly western and central Waikato and the Central Plateau.

But a repeat of the widespread extent of the extreme drought last summer looks unlikely, with Niwa saying soils were wetter than normal in many eastern parts of the South Island, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Peninsula.

Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton said soil moisture in the region was delicately poised.

"Although we're not getting enough [rain], we're getting enough to keep things ticking over," he said.

After the dry weather last summer, a period of hot, dry weather in the next few months would bite more quickly than usual.


"Most farmers coped very well with the drought last year, and as an entity we're getting a bit more accustomed to it. We're working better and planning for it," Houghton said.

Winter and spring had been quite good, so most farmers had more supplementary feed than at this time last year.

Niwa research meteorologist Dr Richard Turner said a 15-day forecast based on 21 models was overall showing little chance of any significant rain in Hamilton in the next fortnight. The chance of more than 5 millimetres of rain on any particular day in the area over the next two weeks was less than 20 per cent.

Niwa climate scientist Alan Porteous said Waikato had had a bit of a run of dry summers in recent years.

In contrast, on the West Coast where the soil was wetter than normal for this time of year, lack of sunshine could be causing problems.

The December climate summary also showed Wellington was the driest and sunniest of the six main centres during the month, and had a mean temperature 1.3 degrees Celsius above normal at 16.7C. Up to December 23, just 15.5mm of rain fell on the city.

Turner said that if Wellington residents were surprised by those statistics it might be because the weather had deteriorated since Christmas.

Even the wind was not too bad until the last week of the month, when the city had some "awful northerlies".

Nationwide, the average temperature in December was 16.6C - 1C above the 1971-2000 December average from Niwa's seven station temperature series which started in 1909.

The mean maximum air temperature for the month was specially high in Hawke's Bay. For example, at Wairoa it was 25.2C, which was 2C higher than normal.

Rainfall was well above normal towards the northeast of the North Island. Kerikeri had its second-wettest December on record with 253mm of rain - 238 per cent of normal.

The rain that fell in those northeastern areas tended to come in relatively short and heavy bursts, Niwa said.
Rainfall was also more than 150 per cent of average for December around the Kaikoura coast and southwestern Southland.

Isolated inland areas of the North Island had record or near-record low rainfall totals, with Masterton getting just 11mm of rain during the month. Rainfall was also well down in parts of Taranaki, the Central Plateau and the lower North Island, northern Marlborough, the Mackenzie Country and parts of Central Otago.

Parts of Otago had low sunshine totals, with Queenstown getting just 75 per cent of normal, while sunshine hours were well above normal for parts of Auckland and southern Northland, and southeastern areas of the North Island.

Fairfax Media