Thursday, December 7, 2023

Cool, wet spring fading as weather tends dry

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Phil Duncan’s Spidey senses have been warning him about the drier pattern that is now emerging.
Warm summer conditions in the South Island have been great for the 2023 harvest.
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By Phil Duncan, WeatherWatch

Human gut instinct is a great thing. We sometimes get a sense that something is changing or happening, but maybe don’t have a lot of data or facts to back it up. Over the past couple of weeks, despite the near daily complaints we receive about how wet and cool this spring has been, I’ve had this gut feeling that things are starting to change – that things are drying out. 

Over the years I’ve been told I can be a little lazy at times, so it’s not surprising that over the past couple weeks I’ve been a bit irked that my lazy time has been interrupted with things like watering my garden. This is a summer-only chore, surely? But as high pressure, warmer days and low rainfall rain events move through, a drier pattern is now emerging – and not just in Phil Duncan’s small garden, but on a much larger scale across our farming regions. 

At the time of writing this report, the following regions could do with a drink of rain: Auckland, Waikato, North Taranaki, east cape, eastern Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, Manawatū, Horowhenua, Wellington, southern Wairarapa, Marlborough, coastal Canterbury, and even a few parts of Southland. Every one of those places is showing up on New Zealand’s soil moisture anomaly map. 

As many of you know, I’m a longtime Monday guest on Jamie Mackay’s  The Country on NewstalkZB.  Jamie often says “parts of New Zealand are always only a couple weeks away from drought when the nor’wester kicks in”. He’s often used a quote similar to this over the years, referencing how fast NZ can dry out (especially eastern areas) when you reach this time of year. While it’s a slightly flippant remark, it’s also based in some truths. 

November is always an interesting month to me – we often have flatter ratings and people tend to glance at a forecast and see it’s not so dramatic as maybe October was. But November is often that transitional month that shifts us from “spring” to “summer”.

In the most recent episode of  El Niño Watch – the weekly podcasts we’re doing on thanks to FMG – I said: “When you take the season of spring this year, from the very beginning in early September to how it will end in late November, it has been a fairly ideal and healthy set-up nationwide for basically every single region when you look it at from start to finish.”

But now we’re coming into summer, and the El Niño side of things may be much more noticeable with longer dry spells and higher daytime temperatures, still mixed in with the cooler nights and still some unsettled wet days and low pressure. But now really is the time to put your summer thinking hat on (and to be sun smart outdoors!)

The public soil moisture anomaly map shows which parts of NZ are now drying out. Some weekend rain may have helped some of these places – but it shows which areas are first to notice the end to our wetter-than-usual 2023.

Upcoming Highlights:

• High pressure and inland downpours kick off this week

• Weak cold front late week for Southland and Otago, then it slides up eastern NZ

• A mixture of both high and  low pressure this weekend 

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