Dry July heralds an early spring

By Steve Deane

Near-record low rainfall hints at warm spell that will worry farmers.

After suffering through a sodden May and June, Auckland enjoyed one of its driest Julys ever, while much of the rest of the country basked in record-high winter temperatures.

With just 32mm - 24 per cent of the month's typical rainfall - falling, last month was the second-driest July in Auckland since records began, Niwa's monthly climate summary revealed.

Auckland's last significant rainfall came between June 16 and 20, when 68mm fell. However, the heavy rains that fell in May and June, which were between 120 and 200 per cent above average, coupled with a low evaporation rate, meant soil moisture levels remained stable, Niwa said.

Weatherwatch.co.nz head analyst Philip Duncan said high pressure had knocked away a lot of the rain-making systems bound for Auckland and that pattern meant the area could again be vulnerable to drought.

"Some of the farmers that we talk to have told us their water tables were quite low," Mr Duncan said. "It's a real concern after the drought that we just had to have a dry end of winter before spring, which is typically windy, warmer and drier."

While rain was forecast for the coming weekend, the tropical low bringing it was similar to the one that passed over the weekend without bringing rain to Auckland.

"My feeling is that September's weather pattern has already arrived. We've already got the spring westerlies, which is unusual in August but it does happen sometimes. It doesn't rule out the chance of another snow storm, but the overall trend is certainly looking warm."

Niwa's principal scientist, Dr Andrew Tait, said the warmer than usual weather was expected to continue for the next three months.

"If you were a betting person you'd say we're probably in for more of the same."

The anticyclones that caused Auckland's settled winter weather also affected the South Island, with predominant northerly winds resulting in record high temperatures.

"There's been an unbelievable amount of records or near-records," Dr Tait said. "The anti-cyclones have been over the North Island and top half of the South Island, which has led to these really warm temperatures over the lower part of the South Island as well."

Big demand for winter water

Water trucks in tank-water-dependent eastern suburbs Beachlands and Maraetai have been running flat out thanks to the unseasonal dry spell.

Colleen Patchett of Maraetai Blue Water said the company had been making 10 deliveries a day, many of them to households caught out by the record dry spell and completely out of water. "We are running like summer months at the moment," Mrs Patchett said. "We have been flat out for days now."

Beachlands resident Duan Fowell bought a tanker of water on Friday, the first time in eight years the family of five has been forced to buy water during the winter. At this time of year he was more used to worrying about flooding on his front lawn than his water tank running dry, Mr Fowell said.

"I'd much rather have a nice, sunny winter and buy a little bit of water than have a wet winter," he said.

However, the present dry spell highlighted the problem of a suburb just 45 minutes' drive from Auckland's CBD being reliant on water tankers. The closest filling station to Beachlands had recently closed and the price of water deliveries had risen significantly.

- NZ Herald

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