Rain is welcome, but still not enough for parched Northland

By Mike Dinsdale -
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Downpours finally fell in Northland yesterday, but too little to ease drought concerns. Photo / John Stone
Downpours finally fell in Northland yesterday, but too little to ease drought concerns. Photo / John Stone

Yesterday's rain, and a downpour predicted for the weekend, will not be enough to dampen Northland's parched soil, Niwa says.

Heavy downfalls across Northland yesterday did little to lift the region's soil moisture levels as Northland goes through another big dry.

Parched land with next to no rain for nearly two months is forcing Northland farmers to reduce their stock and hope for at least 100mm of rain before the end of January. And there is a very real possibility that drought will be declared in Northland if the current dry spell continues for another two to three weeks. If a drought is declared it will be the fifth in Northland in the past eight years.

Chris Brandolino, principal scientist and forecaster at Niwa, said although appearing heavy at times, yesterday's downpour produced only 1.8mm of rain at Niwa's Port Rd weather station, with 1.6mm falling between 11am and noon.

Mr Brandolino said it was in effect the first rain of the year for Northland, which on average had 78mm of rain in January. He said another 15mm of rain was predicted to fall on Northland over Saturday and Sunday.

But, he said, it would do little to ease the region's dry conditions.

"When you are in financial trouble any bit of money helps so any rain will help to some degree, but you will lose most of it [through evaporation] with the fine weather you are getting and will get next week."

He said it was strange that Northland was going through an exceptionally warm January while the further south some areas were having much colder, autumnal-like temperatures.

A weather bomb brought heavy wind and rain across the central and south of the country yesterday, with winds gusting up to 160km/h in some places.

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