Heavy rain expected in Bay region

By Patrick O' Sullivan


Rain, heavy at times, was forecast by MetService for Hawke's Bay today accompanied by southerly winds and a high of 26C.

Meteorologist Daniel Corbett said much of the country's recent active weather will move away by today but for Waitangi Day on the East Coast there may be a few lingering showers clearing in the later part of the day with a high of 21C.

The same cool southerly change bringing today's rain may cause snow to fall on the Southern Alps. It will be followed by a high pressure system bringing sunny days and temperatures in the mid to high 20s.

The continuing dry weather has led to a fire ban in the Wairoa District. Hastings, Napier and Central Hawke's Bay councils have also declared total fire bans.

Hawke's Bay Regional Authority senior scientist Kathleen Kozyniak said this summer was in marked contrast to the last three.

"It's either feast or famine," Dr Kozyniak said. "During the last few Januaries we were growing webbed feet and aquaplaning round our own backyards. We had 320 per cent, 319 per cent and 191 per cent of normal rainfall in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively.

"This year, there is less coming out of the sky than out of our sweat glands as the region gets above-average temperatures and only 51 per cent of the usual January average rainfall.

"It's now the fifth month in a row that we've had below normal rainfall and counting, so it's no wonder the hills are a parched shade of brown and the low flow bans are coming on.

"There was the odd glitch in water quality at a small number of our watering spots during the month but in the main it's been great conditions to enjoy the region's beaches and to liberate the jandals rather than don the gumboots as in Januarys past."

One of the driest Januarys in more than 100 years has resulted in a "severe" lack of soil moisture across the North Island.

A review by Niwa of last month's weather has found rainfall was at record lows for most of the North Island, with agriculturally important land around Auckland, Waikato and Northland receiving less than 10 per cent of their normal January rain.

Only 4mm fell at Tauranga, its second lowest January rainfall since records began in 1898, and 7mm was recorded at Hamilton, its third lowest since 1905.

The 9mm recorded at Auckland Airport last month was the lowest since 1962, while 4mm at Whitianga was its lowest on record.

The lack of rain and record-high sunshine hours have contributed to parched land across much of the country, Niwa climate scientist Georgina Griffiths said.

The moisture level in soil is so low in some areas that it is almost too hard to measure.

There is less than 20mm of rain in soil in the Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa regions, where the moisture capacity is 150mm.

All of those areas are graded as having "extreme" moisture deficits while all other areas of the North Island are rated as "severe".

Wet weather across the country yesterday was expected to offer little reprieve for parched farms. "It's been a long time since I've seen so much [land] under the extreme soil moisture deficit tag," Ms Griffiths said.

While the north sweltered last month, the South Island had a relatively wet 31 days. Rainfall exceeded 150 per cent of the January normal from Queenstown to Gore as well as Central Otago, Nelson and Marlborough.

More than double the usual January rainfall was seen around Mt Cook, the Kaikoura Coast and in parts of north Canterbury.

Closer to normal rainfall was observed in coastal Westland and Fiordland, as well as Dunedin, Christchurch and coastal south Canterbury.

The new minister of Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, was due to visit Hawke's Bay today to inspect dry farming conditions with local farmers.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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