Staving off drought

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014

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Waikato will bask in a spell of fine settled weather for the first weekend of February - but with soil moisture levels dryer than normal, the region needs rain to stave off the dreaded D-word.

NIWA environmental scientist Darren King dared not utter the word, but said while soil moisture was not as bad as last year, it was still lower than normal.

"There are a number of areas in the country that are dryer than normal and that includes the western Waikato and the central North Island area extending across to the East Coast," Mr King said.

New Zealand's weather was being affected by conditions generated over the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which had been in a neutral state throughout January.

Niwa expected those weather patterns to continue for the next three months, bringing with it near to above average temperatures and an equal chance of near to above normal rainfall.

A patchy January helped prevent a repeat of last year's soil conditions but Mr King said there was no time for farmers to relax and they would need to keep an eye out for a shift in the weather.

"It's not a good sign if we don't get any rain over the next month or over the next quarter," he said. "Let's hope the forecast is right."

The Metservice website forecasts a sunny weekend in the Waikato with southerly breezes turning southeasterly but dying out by Sunday.

Cloud will form on Monday and turn to showers as the week progresses.

"We expect those ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) neutral conditions to continue. That's neither El Nino or La Nina, it's a bit of everything," said Mr King.

Rivers in the region have a 50 per cent chance of being in the normal range, sea surface temperatures should be average or above and expect lower wind pressures over the north of the country and higher pressures well to the east of New Zealand.

"We expect the the circulation pattern to produce weak anomalous south westerly flows over the South Island and more easterly flows than normal over the North Island." elton.smallman@waikatotimes.co.nz

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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