Farmers are being cautioned to prepare contingency plans amid
early signs of a large El Nino climate event this year.
In New Zealand, the ocean-driven system typically brings
cooler, wetter conditions, bringing higher rainfall to
regions that are normally wet, and often drought to areas
that are usually dry.
The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere has given a 50
per cent chance of an El Nino developing over winter, while
international forecasts have put the probability of one
arriving by the end of the year as high as 80 per cent.
Federated Farmers adverse events spokeswoman Katie Milne saw
the picture as cause for vigilance.
"Farmers do need to be aware it is getting to be more of a
stronger prediction than just a hint - and to be thinking
about what happened in affected areas in those years when we
had strong El Ninos," she said.
"It would be advisable to start thinking about whether they
need a plan about what they need to do if the worst does come
In El Ninos, farmers in the western, wetter parts of the
country could face significant damage to pastures from too
much rainfall, and it was also harder for stock to thrive in
the constant wet.
"For those guys in eastern areas who have got to deal with
the dry, they'll really have to think about food
availability," she said. "In one-off events, you have to just
get on and do what you've got to do, and insurance will help
with whatever is damaged, but in longer events like drought
... they worry the heck out of me, put it that way."
El Nino events have been devastating in the past - the last
severe system in 1997 and 1998 caused a major drought that
cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Victoria University climate scientist Associate Professor
James Renwick did not expect a 2014 El Nino to be such a
While conditions of the ocean surface in the tropical Pacific
were warmer than usual, it was what has been happening
several hundred metres below that scientists have been
"In the equatorial Pacific, there is this massive warm region
of extra ocean heat that has moved very steadily from the
Indonesian region in January to just about the South American
coast now," Professor Renwick said. "That warmth will come up
to the surface, and the expectation is that this is a bigger
slug of warmth than we've seen for four or five years - maybe
even 10 years - and just on that basis you'd expect a pretty
decent El Nino."
Professor Renwick said a system could arrive sooner or later
than predicted, but he expected one would come by spring and
last through the summer. "The indications right now aren't
that it will be a super El Nino, just that it will be an El
Get set for the wet
A soggy start to the week has been forecast for much of the
country, with heavy rain warnings in some parts of the South
MetService is forecasting rain for most parts of the country
today and tomorrow, with heavy falls in the east of the South
Island. A low is forecast to deepen today east of Canterbury
and Otago, for which heavy rain warnings have been issued,
and there is low risk of significant amounts of rain in
western areas of the North Island from Taranaki across to
Wanganui tomorrow. Fine weather is forecast from Wednesday.
- NZ Herald