Farmers enjoying our soggy summer

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 09/01/2014

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Farmers around the region are rejoicing at the lack of summer drought conditions, while sodden holidaymakers have less than sunny memories of Nelson, but things could be about to change.

Climate predictions for the next three months show that Nelson could be in for a break in the weather, with warmer and drier conditions on the way.

"My observations are that it's probably difficult to see the countryside looking better than it is for this time of year. Fears of a drought are not an issue up to this point," Federated Farmers Nelson branch chairman Gavin O'Donnell said today.

The seasonal outlook from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's (Niwa) National Climate Centre shows that temperatures across the top of the South Island, including Nelson, Marlborough and Buller, have a 40 per cent chance of being close to average or even warmer for the next three months.

Rainfall totals and river flows are equally likely to be in the near-normal or below normal range, and soil moisture levels are most likely (45 per cent chance) to be in the below normal range.

Meanwhile, drier than normal soils in much of Waikato and western Northland are raising concerns after last summer's widespread destructive drought, but a repeat looks unlikely.

Niwa said soils were wetter than normal in many eastern parts of the South Island, Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Peninsula.

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

Mr O'Donnell said a critical point from now on would be whether autumn feed levels would be able to be carried through.

"February is traditionally a dry month in the top of the south, so it really just depends on how much it dries up, and how that might continue through April and May, if it does at all."

He said farmers were lucky to have been able to make plenty of hay and silage this season.

"It was a mild winter, and we had a strong start to spring, and that's continued right through to now.

"Nature has a way of balancing things out within a 12-month period, and there's a little bit of fear in the back of our minds that we've had this really good period, but what does that mean for autumn and winter?" Mr O'Donnell said.

Niwa's December climate summary also shows that 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.

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.

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The mean maximum air temperature for the month was especially high in Hawke's Bay.

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

Rainfall was also more than 150 per cent of the 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 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, while sunshine hours were well above normal for parts of Auckland and southern Northland, and southeastern areas of the North Island.

- Nelson

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