City as dry as a chip

Only 17mm of rain fell in Dunedin last month, making it the driest November the city has experienced in 95 years.

The dry weather left council staff monitoring fire risks and water supply levels, with a drier-than-normal summer predicted for coastal Otago.

Niwa's November climate report showed Dunedin - at its Musselburgh station - recorded 17mm, only 29% of normal rainfall, the lowest recorded since records began in 1918.

Dunedin airport recorded its second-lowest November rainfall with 13mm, 25% of normal, and Balclutha 17mm, 34% of normal.

Dunedin rural fire officer Graeme Still said the fire risk was moderate,

fluctuating to high when strong winds hit the city.

Although underground moisture content was where it should be for the time of year, the material on the surface had dried out quickly due to wind in October, he said.

''We're keeping a close eye on it as it won't take long for the groundwater to evaporate.''

Traditionally, a prohibited fire season was not implemented in the area until January.

Niwa's November to February climate outlook suggested Otago temperatures could be slightly warmer than normal, with rainfall in the normal range and river flows below normal.

''On the basis of this forecast, coastal Canterbury and east Otago are most likely to experience drier than normal conditions over the summer.''

Dunedin City Council water production manager Gerard McCombie said staff were monitoring flows and some creeks were trending down.

''Some are running below normal for this time of year but there is still adequate supply to meet demand.''

Dunedin was the driest and coldest of New Zealand's six main centres in November, recording mean temperature of 13degC. The warmest city was Auckland (17.8degC) and the national average 15.1degC.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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