TWM SUMMER  NZ,  2003-04

Drought | Heatwave | Storms

COMMENT: For the record, TWM is now capable of generating, prolonging or terminating drought as well as other weather-related events. TWM policy on mitigating | preventing weather disasters is simple - User pays.

Refer to "The New Zealand Way" for background to this page.

SKIP TO "The Big Flood" of February 2004.
Summer hot and windy, Metservice says 
NZ Herald Wednesday December 17, 2003
The start of the summer holidays are likely to be windy, the MetService predicts. Bouts of strong and gusty northwesterly winds were coming to New Zealand in the next few weeks, bringing dry and sometimes hot weather to eastern areas and a few wet days to the mountains in the west and south. [...]
Light rain little help in cutting fire risk 
NZ Herald Thursday December 25, 2003
Cooler temperatures and a sprinkling of rain did little to ease the South Island's near-extreme fire conditions yesterday. With the exception of a small area in North Canterbury, all the South Island is under some level of fire restriction. The Canterbury high country and Otago have a total ban on lighting fires outdoors, and the National Rural Fire Authority may extend that across the South Island today. [...]
Canterbury swelters in blistering heat
NZ Herald Monday January 05, 2004
A heatwave has struck Canterbury bringing record temperatures and ill-tidings for farmers, with little indication the  weather will ease in coming days. At Darfield, west of Christchurch, the mercury nudged 41C on New Year's Day, setting a record for a January temperature in New Zealand. The furnace follows the driest December in Canterbury history, parching the fields and causing headaches for farmers - especially in the northern part of Southland... reports of a disaster were exaggerated, but there was no doubt the drought was hurting... Forecasters at Blue Skies Weather and Climate Services predicted little rain for the South Island's hydro lakes for the next four months. [...]
Extra fire crews called in to battle dry South Island
STUFF 05 January 2004 
North Island crews are being called in to bolster Canterbury's stretched firefighting forces as the region bakes in a potentially devastating heatwave. While holidaymakers are packing the region's beaches, pools and rivers to bask in the 30degC-plus temperatures, it is turning into the summer from hell for embattled Canterbury firefighters, with one call-out after another.  Department of Conservation (DOC) senior fire officer Tony Teeling said a Bay of Plenty aerial fire crew arrived in Christchurch yesterday to relieve exhausted local firefighters who had been battling a large blaze from helicopters in the Castle Hill area, west of Springfield, since New Year's Day... Canterbury has the highest fire risk in the country. Crews were suffering yesterday from the heat and dehydration as they also battled to subdue fires in the Selwyn River bed, near Dunsandel... Mr Teeling said he had not seen rural Canterbury so dry before. Usually the driest conditions came in late February and early March, when the relief of autumn rains was not far away. [...]
Relief in sight for parts of sweltering South Island 
NZ Herald 05.01.2004
Relief from high temperatures which have baked the Canterbury plains is in sight, the Met Service says... Met Service duty forecaster Heath Gullery told NZPA. "There is a front coming up the South Island which is likely to bring rain to the West Coast and Southern Alps, but nothing is expected to reach anywhere on the plains or foothills."... Combined with low humidity, today was expected to be another scorcher. [...]
Marlborough escapes extremes of heatwave 
STUFF 05 January 2004 
Sea breezes appear to have spared much of Marlborough from the extremes of a New Year heatwave hitting other parts of the country... Niwa senior climate scientist Jim Salinger said Marlborough appeared to have missed the hot norwesterly winds which drove temperatures up further south at the weekend. MetService forecaster Bob McDavitt said... today's temperature in Blenheim was expected to reach 31degC, after which there would be a "brief respite" from the heat...  "But with westerly windflows persisting, I wouldn't expect any great rain," Mr McDavitt said. 
Fire danger haunts Canterbury
nzoom Jan 05, 2004
Canterbury firefighters are facing a tough week with fire danger reaching extreme levels and rural communities bracing for the worst. As high temperatures and strong winds hit  home on Monday, firefighters were already battling two major blazes...The hot and gusty weather brought by Canterbury's notorious nor'westers are keeping firefighters and rural families on high alert- with many residents making special plans for emergency evacuation... With many farms just beginning their harvests, the fire service is warning that extra vigilance will be needed in the coming weeks... With literally hundreds of fires in recent weeks the fire service says it is extremely fortunate there have been no serious injuries. With the nor-westers settled in and parts of the region still burning, firefighters are hoping that luck holds.
Rail track heat woes for three more years 
STUFF Tuesday, 06 January 2004 
Long-distance train passengers face up to three more years of snail-like trips before all heat-related track problems are fixed, Tranz Scenic says.Tranz Scenic manager Don Gibson said yesterday that Tranz Rail had  told him it would take that long to "de-stress" all welded tracks between Wellington and Auckland and on other lines such as Christchurch to Greymouth.... Speed restrictions – to ensure passenger trains do not derail if tracks expand and buckle on hot days – force some trains to slow to 40km/h on warm days. [...]
Livestock head north as dry bites 
STUFF Tuesday, 06 January 2004
About 20,000 store lambs and cattle will be shipped out of South Canterbury for fattening and slaughtering in the North Island as the continuing dry weather turns into impending drought. South Canterbury Farmers Irrigation Society chairman Tom Henderson said the past two weeks' dry weather accompanied by extremely high temperatures has caused evaporation of ground moisture... became impossible for some South Canterbury farmers to fatten their store lambs... However, he believed next week's sale would see some unusual trends as farmers moved to rid themselves of stock if the dry weather continued. [...]
Heat drives mobs to beach, firefighters to exhaustion 
NZ Herald Tuesday January 06, 2004
Summer is behaving like a moody teenager, with regional conditions bouncing between sweltering heat or pouring rain. Thermometers will continue to yo-yo throughout the summer, said MetService ambassador Bob McDavitt... A cold front is expected over the country on Thursday, but Mr McDavitt said it might have done its dash by the time it hits Auckland and do little more than raise humidity. Consistent highs have seen Aucklanders flock to any beach within a car-ride of the city, Canterbury is battling bushfires thriving on temperatures stuck in the high 30s, and Fiordland yesterday enjoyed a serious dumping courtesy of a storm front in the south Tasman Sea. [...]
Fire bans spread as south swelters in the summer sun 
NZ Herald Tuesday January 06, 2004 
As Canterbury continues to bake in a scorching heatwave, total fire bans have also been imposed in Otago, Marlborough and Waiarapa. All available firefighting crews from low-risk areas are being put on standby in case they are needed to back up stretched forces in the extreme danger zones. National Rural Fire Authority spokesman Mike Davies said yesterday that an increasing fire risk in some parts of the country had led to the imposition of firelighting bans "probably a month earlier than normal." "Rain is what we need," Mr Davies said. But that was unlikely within the next week, increasing the fire danger. [...]
Fear mounts as dry spell worsens
THE PRESS Tuesday, 06 January 2004 
Feed supplies are falling and rain is desperately needed or farmers will have to start quitting stock to ease the pressure on feed and dwindling water supplies. Stock-water supplies are drying up and the fire risk is climbing in inland North Canterbury. The hot, dry weather over the past few days has put pressure on creeks and streams already struggling because of the lack of rain in the past six to eight weeks, forcing farmers to open gates across their farms to give stock access to water. Farmers said yesterday the conditions were more like those expected in late January or early February. [...]
Region's bitumen melting as the heat goes on 
THE PRESS 06 January 2004 
The Canterbury heatwave is taking its toll on the black stuff. Several roads in the region have been affected by hot bitumen expanding above the road surface, requiring grit-laying to prevent motorists from surfing seas of tar. Christchurch City Council pavement maintenance team leader Peter McDonald said half a dozen patches of road had softened, "especially those which get turning traffic and those sorts of pressures on them". [...]
Cuts likely as region dries up 
STUFF Tuesday, 06 January 2004 
Water restrictions are looming in the Nelson region as people swelter under a heatwave sweeping the country. The Tasman District Council may introduce rationing in the Waimea Plains later this week after the Waimea River level dropped considerably during the weekend. The Nelson City Council may also introduce alternate days for garden watering as the Roding River flow drops... Rainfall figures continued to fall behind the average for the year ending December 31 in both Nelson and Motueka but were slightly up for Takaka. [...]
Flare-ups feared by firefighters 
THE PRESS Friday, 09 January 2004
Firefighters were on tenterhooks at big fire sites in Mid-Canterbury yesterday, as warm, windy weather threatened to re-ignite the blazes. It was feared nor'west winds and hot temperatures could re-ignite fires near the Ashburton River and Dunsandel... The Conservation Department (DOC) said yesterday that fighting Canterbury fires since New Year would cost it more than $1.5 million. On average, DOC spent $440,000 a year fighting fires on its land. 
Alarm at dire water levels 
THE PRESS Friday, 09 January 2004
Canterbury's deep groundwater levels are perilous, with experts warning they are set to become the lowest the region has experienced. Environment Canterbury (ECan) has placed restrictions on 36 rivers and streams, but can do little to restrict groundwater use. ECan hydrogeologist Phillipa Aitchison-Earl said groundwater levels were similar to those typically seen in February or March. "We are very unlikely to get recharge over the summer so by February or March we would expect things to be much lower... lower than they've ever been before," she said. [...]
Firefighters gear up for the worst 
NZ Herald Tuesday January 13, 2004
Firefighters in dry parts of the country are hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, as summer wears on and the fire danger rises. By late this month the risk of fire is expected to be extreme in Northland, parts of Auckland, the Gisborne flats, the Heretaunga Plains, central Hawkes Bay, parts of the Wairarapa, Manawatu, the Waimea Plains and the east of the South Island from central Marlborough to Otago. The prediction, by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, is based on its seasonal climate outlook that foresees low rainfall in many places, high temperatures at times, low humidity in eastern parts and strong westerlies mainly affecting the east of the South Island and the south of the North Island. [...]
Drought hammers farmers 
STUFF Thursday, 15 January 2004 
Forecasters predict that Marlborough's latest dry spell could be the most devastating in years. Many farmers, fearing the worst, have already sold off stock and are now being warned to get rid of the rest or source extra feed as a mean autumn approaches. Early predictions from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) are for above average temperatures and below average rainfall. Agricultural consultant Ian  Blair said this year was shaping up to be as bad as, if not worse than 1997, when the drought caught many  farmers out and was so bad the New Zealand Army was called in to help cart water to the Awatere Valley. 
The drought coupled with a soaring New Zealand dollar could prove a double whammy for the economy... In 1998 Federated Farmers estimated that year's drought had cut $490 million from farm gate incomes with even heavier downstream effects. The drought is already impacting on farmers' spending with some fearing their income will be cut by 20 percent this year. BNZ economist Tony Alexander said there was increasing evidence of a reduction in farm spending, such as falling tractor registrations. This came as the twin impacts of the drought and strong Kiwi dollar were being felt by farmers. [...] 
Heatwave parches north 
NZ Herald Wednesday January 14, 2004
Vast areas of the North Island are drying up under a heatwave, with serious problems expected for farmers unless rain comes to the north within the next week... Northland Federated Farmers spokesman Bill Guest said the dry summer had compounded the problems of an extremely wet winter and spring. Mr McDavitt said highs had been crossing the north of New Zealand, while lows deepened in the Southern Ocean, creating more westerly winds over central New Zealand. The result was long, dry periods, especially in Northland, with hot, humid weather... Niwa expected fire risks to be at extreme levels in several parts of the country by the end of January. [...]
Nelson faces early drought 
STUFF 16 January 2004 
Nelson is headed for an almost inevitable drought, with the seasonal dry spell arriving about a month earlier than usual this year. Unless significant rain falls this month, there are concerns large-scale rationing could be imposed within weeks, with severe consequences for almost all water users. Tasman District Council dry weather taskforce convener Dennis Bush-King said the seasonal dry had arrived five weeks earlier than usual. [...]
Fires rage across south 
STUFF Monday, 19 January 2004 
Firefighters will remain on high alert today after a weekend battling scrub fires as forecast dry and windy conditions continue to expose Southland and Otago to extreme fire risk. With high winds and low humidity forecast to continue, the Southern Rural Fire District last night brought in four new crews, ready to deploy at first light this morning. Principal rural fire officer Mike Grant said many fires were being sparked by old burnoffs re-igniting. [...]
Showers tipped - not enough to break Canty drought 
STUFF Monday, 19 January 2004 
A cool southerly change this week is expected to bring Canterbury its highest rainfall since November – but it will not be a drought-breaker. Blue Skies Weather and Climate Services has forecast southerly winds and showers starting today and continuing to the end of the week. Forecaster Angeline Frayle said while showers were not expected to be prolonged, 10mm to 15mm of rain was expected to fall, more than the total recorded for all of December... Environment Canterbury senior compliance monitoring officer Dick Pilbrow said the "teaser" of rain felt by Canterbury over the weekend had done nothing to groundwater levels. 
Summer taking a break for a few days 
NZ Herald Monday January 19, 2004
The perfect summer weather most of the country has basked in for the past few weeks is about to end. But the cool southerly change will not be a drought-breaker for stricken Canterbury. The MetService expects a low to develop over Northland and Auckland today, bringing cloud and rain until Wednesday or Thursday. [...]
Farmers and fire officers welcomed the cooler temperatures, but were under no illusion that the drought, predicted by some to be the worst in memory, was over. [...]
Dire predictions from fire analyst
nzoom  Jan 20, 2004
A Christchurch fire researcher has an unwelcome weather prediction for firefighters and farmers. Fire research scientist Stuart Anderson says current weather patterns are identical to those that caused the debilitating drought of 1998. There has already been a lot of hot sun and dry winds this summer. Fire research graphs help predict the ferocity of fires and how to combat them most effectively. Lately the figures have being looking disturbingly like those in 1998. But it is not just firefighters who remember how bad conditions can get. Farmers had to turn to the government for drought relief in 1998 and this season may be a duplicate in that sense too. Mike Elliot of Otago Federated Farmers says in the worst case scenario farmers may need financial help from the government. [...]
Fire hotspot clean-up continues after some rain
NZ Herald Tuesday January 20, 2004
Despite some rain, rural firefighters are still working hard today to deal with fire hotspots before the weather dries up again... Fire crews in Canterbury and Southland had been able to get into burnt areas to dampen down hotspots after some serious blazes on Sunday... South Island rural authorities said today rain over the last day had brought some relief but was not enough. The potential for deep-seated fires remained. [...]
Far North feels the heat 
STUFF Thursday, 22 January 2004
The dry weather gripping the north is a "one in ten year" event but that is no comfort for farmers caught in the dust and heat. It will take a significant amount of rain to restore the parched paddocks of the Far North to normal, following a dry spell which has farmers fearing the worst. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) climatologist, Stuart Burgess, said the Far North needed about 130 mls of rain to restore soil moisture levels to normal. He estimated there was only a 40 percent chance of the region receiving normal rainfall between January and March and a 40 percent chance of it receiving "below normal" rainfall during this period. [...]
COMMENT: ...and now for something completely different. Actually, more of the same. Also check out earlier activities in the South Island. It's times like these that make the work interesting. Note the previous long-range weather forecasts re rainfall. (22.01.04)
Weather mayhem disrupts summer
nzoom Jan 21, 2004
Summer has taken a day off in much of the North Island, only to be replaced by a wintry blast. Everything from gale force gusts, fierce southerlies and heavy rain battered a large region that covered Wellington, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Taranaki. Power was cut, trees were torn up and ferry crossings were cancelled. The Interisland Line cancelled all services on Wednesday morning due to heavy winds and high seas, forcing thousands of passengers to rebook or take charter flights organised by the Interisland Line... Meanwhile, winds gusting up to 120 kilometres an hour in Wanganui snapped power poles like twigs, cutting off electricity to around 500 homes. Mark Pascoe of MetService says he has not seen weather like it in summer for "donkey's years"... Wellington beaches were deserted on Wednesday as most people were scared away by the June temperatures, the southerly wind and the fierce rain. ONE's weather reporter Kay Gregory says New Zealand's weather is currently upside down, with a low in summer which normally arrives in winter. [...]
Wind and rain batter North Island, but still dry in South
NZ Herald Wednesday January 21, 2004
Wellington, Wairarapa, Taranaki and Hawke's Bay are bearing the brunt of high winds that cut power, tore up trees, cancelled ferry crossings and caused traffic havoc overnight. More winds of between 65km/h and 110km/h were expected in those areas today. Hail was a possibility for Auckland, Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel Peninsula later today, the MetService said. A heavy rain warning was in place for southern Hawke's Bay, South Wairarapa and the eastern hills of Wellington, with gale force wind gusts in southern Taranaki and Wanganui... Across Cook Strait, where the rain is needed, the forecast for today was fine.
Weather eases, but damage done
nzoom Jan 22, 2004
The forecast is for clearing weather on Thursday, but the storm that has battered the lower North Island for the past two days has already taken its toll with the cost expected to run into the millions. Everything from gale force gusts, fierce southerlies and heavy rain battered a large region that covered Wellington, Manawatu, Wairarapa and Taranaki. Power was cut, trees were torn up and many woke to damaged homes on Wednesday after holes in several roofs were caused by winds gusting over 100 kilometres an hour. [...]
COMMENT: Back to drought... (24.01.04)
Big dry hits the land of Big Sky
NZ Herald Saturday January 24, 2004
The tourists may be biting but the fish are not. In what they call "Big Sky Country", the severe drought in Central Otago has all but dried up business for local fishing guides. With a lack of water in rivers and streams in most of the region, Murray McKnight says there is often little point casting for trout...
Economists have estimated the combined incomes of the 4200 sheep and beef farmers in Otago and Southland this year will be $100 million lower than last year. That means each farmer will lose about $25,000 in projected earnings. But the drought does not just hurt the farmers. Big Sky Country is the epithet given by Tourism Central Otago for the vast region inland from Oamaru, north-west of Dunedin. [...]
Inferno at the back door 
NZ Herald Sunday January 25, 2004
It has been a familiar South Island story over the past month - fires burning out of control, farmland destroyed, houses threatened. Two major fires in Canterbury have prompted communities to be evacuated, and the wide scale of the blazes has forced firefighters to work day and night for weeks on end. Colleagues from the North Island have been called to relieve exhausted crews, along with Department of Conservation firefighters who are responsible for Crown land... Every season the New Zealand Rural Fire Authority gets fire weather forecasts from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa). The most recent outlook, to March, offers a serious warning for the north... By next week that will push the fire risk to "extreme" for Northland, parts of Auckland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Manawatu, as well as the South Island's east coast. Neighbouring areas are also at risk... Little rain is forecast until March, so the extreme or very high rating will probably remain in place. [...]
Drought-hit farmers shed lambs 
NZ Herald  Monday January 26, 2004 
More than 12,000 lambs were sold at a larger-than-usual Palmerston sale on Friday as drought-hit farmers shed stock. Auctioneer Mark Yeates said stock numbers were boosted as farmers from East Otago, the Maniototo and the Strath Taieri sold lambs to protect feed for their ewes.
Drought threatens autumn feed
nzoom Jan 26, 2004
Farmers affected by drought conditions in the South Island are being told not to panic, but plan ahead.
A severe lack of rain is causing problems in Central and West Otago, Canterbury and northern Southland, where conditions have become dry a lot earlier than usual. Farmers are selling stock to North Island farmers enjoying a lush season, while croppers are having to sacrifice some crops to save others. A rural servicing company, Wrightson, says farmers need to keep an eye on climate forecasts and have a contingency plan in place if need be. [...]
Fires suck money out of services
nzoom Feb 11, 2004
A nightmare summer for Canterbury firefighters has stretched their budgets to the limit, with the Department of Conservation and National Rural Fire Authority wondering how they will pay the bills. Firefighers battled 62 blazes in the region during December and January, pushing manpower and resources to the limit. Now the financial toll is hitting home as a stream of bills rolls in.The rural fire authority's Murray Dudfield says the organisation's budget is more than 50% higher than it was at the same time last year. The estimated cost of the summer's fire is so far $3.2 million dollars... The Conservation Department's Kerry Hilliard says DOC's share of that cost will be $1.2 million, but their budget amounts to only $800,000. [...]
COMMENT: ...and back to storms. Click here for "The Big Flood". Again, note recent forecasts re rainfall.

It's official - summer was extreme
NZ Herald 11.03.2004
From forest fires to flooding, summer was a season of extremes, says the national climate summary for summer, compiled by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa). It shows the country went from drought conditions in some areas in January to record or near record rainfall in February. Senior climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger said... "Intense temperatures accompanied by high winds produced life-threatening forest fires in the east of the South Island during December, but by the end of February, record rainfall in many areas had made flooding the dominant climate hazard," he said.
Until late January, a heatwave in the South Island created extreme fire risk in Canterbury and the east of the South Island. The worst flooding in a century occurred in the Wanganui, Manawatu/Rangitikei region, southern Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Lower Hutt and Picton last month. Rainfall was more than 200 per cent of normal in the west of the North Island from Waikato to Wellington and in the Wairarapa. Near or record summer rainfall also occurred in parts of Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Ruapehu, Tongariro, Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, Horowhenua and Golden Bay. Auckland and Wellington recorded one of their wettest summers on record...
COMMENT: And to complete the year of weather extremes - check out the summer of 2004-05