Wet weather expected to continue with La Nina on horizon

Rain and mud - the story of the farming year so far.

Rain and mud - the story of the farming year so far.

Five out of the six main centres have already surpassed their annual rainfall averages and there may be more rain on the way with the potential arrival of a La Nina weather system.

With two and a half months of the year to go, only Dunedin is not ahead of its average.

The North Island and upper South Island have experienced a soaking this winter and spring, while parts of the south have been basking in balmy weather.

Cropping farmers such as Timaru's Michael Porter have been stymied by the weather with paddocks too wet to drill.
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/STUFF

Cropping farmers such as Timaru's Michael Porter have been stymied by the weather with paddocks too wet to drill.

Fiordland, the rainfall capital of New Zealand, had its warmest temperature since 1933 on the weekend - 25.2 degrees.

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In Christchurch there have been 78 wet days so far this year, the highest number of wet days at this point in the year since 1974. Wellington rainfall to date sits at 1254mm, whereas normally by now it would be 982mm.

The only drier than normal patches are in the lower half of the South Island and a pocket around Gisborne. The dark ...
NIWA

The only drier than normal patches are in the lower half of the South Island and a pocket around Gisborne. The dark green areas depict above average soil moisture.

While dairy and cropping farmers are struggling, it's a different story for traditional dry stock farmers on the east coast.

Federated Farmers Wairarapa provincial president Jamie Falloon said "the land is looking so green it hurts the eyes".

The prospect of a La Nina promising more easterly rain "sounds good. You farm for a dry summer so rain is a bonus."

Niwa climatologist Ben Noll said he had been keeping a close eye on the tropics which impact on New Zealand's climate.

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"Since last autumn we've had tropical systems bringing in moisture, and we're now tracking what is happening in the equatorial Pacific.

"There's an increasing chance of a La Nina system developing by the end of 2017, right now we're in ENSO neutral - neither El Nino or La Nina," Noll said.

A La Nina would bring more easterly or north easterly winds than usual in spring, while in summertime there might be more of an easterly wind direction. This would bring more rain to the north and east.

On the other hand, the further south, the drier it might become.

Southland Feds provincial president Allan Baird said the weather gods had provided a generous amount of rain in spring, but areas were slightly drying off.

Further inland in the Queenstown Lakes district, Otago Feds provincial president Phill Hunt said some irrigators were being "cranked up" already, but in the middle of lambing farmers did not want a late cold snap.

"Maybe in a month if there's no rain people will be looking at their options."

Meanwhile dairy farmers are having to contend with sodden pastures, and resorting to supplements such as palm kernel to see them through.

In Manawatū/Rangitīkei the lack of sun is curbing the mating instincts of dairy cows and farmers expect fertility levels will be lower than normal.

While mating hasn't started, fewer cows than usual are cycling because of cool and cloudy weather.

A Zespri spokeswoman said flower buds were forming on the vines and growers were making decisions about thinning strategies and how much crop they would carry into the season. The first orchards will start flowering in the next few weeks, marking the start of pollination.

The ground was "pretty saturated" in some places but she said on most orchards this was not an issue. As flowering and fruit set began, growers were looking to avoid hail and frosts.

Noll sounded a note of caution over people being too pessimistic. Signs were that it would not be a strong La Nina, and quite possibly during summer there would be chunks of between two and four weeks of fine weather.

 - Stuff

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