One of these things is not like the other

It’s easy to see if there’s a flood or an earthquake, but drought’s an odd one to call. When does a dry spell become a drought?

Published on Friday, December 08, 2017

NIWA recently launched a NZ Drought Index https://niwa.co.nz/climate/information-and-resources/drought-monitor which is a really useful piece of the drought puzzle. It takes into account four different measures of dryness, which are combined and categorised as:

  • dry
  • very dry
  • extremely dry
  • drought
  • severe drought.

Dry spells and droughts are part of life for many farmers across New Zealand. Farmers monitor their local conditions, plan for dry weather, and make tough decisions early.

MPI doesn’t declare droughts, but help to identify if the impacts of a drought on the primary sector should be classified as a medium- or large-scale adverse event, under the criteria in the Primary Sector Recovery Policy.  That triggers extra government recovery assistance, such as additional funding for Rural Support Trusts to help their farming communities.

As well as the NZ Drought Index, MPI’s criteria includes:

  • options available for farmers to prepare for the event;
  • the likelihood and scale of the physical impact; and
  • the ability of the local community to cope socially and economically.

NIWA meteorologist Chris Brandolino says, “It’s distinctly possible that much of the country will experience below normal rainfall through to the Christmas holiday period, and December temperatures are very likely to remain above average for all of New Zealand and the summer season as a whole.”

Check out your climate on NIWA's hotspot watch.

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