A New Zealand summer with potential cold snaps and lots of rain, coupled with sun and hot, record-breaking temperatures. What, come again?
That’s what’s forecast for this summer – if the El Niño weather pattern is anything to go by – and climate experts are saying it could be the most extreme in 80 years.
Niwa’s forecasting services team leader Chris Brandolino tells The Detail we’ve already seen extremes this spring as El Niño begins.
And it will probably continue. Niwa has just released its seasonal climate outlook for the next three months, leading into summer.
The weather’s looking a bit all over the place, one might say.
“For the northern and eastern part of the North Island, we think rainfall’s going to be below normal,” Brandolino says.
“For the west of the North Island, there’s a little less certainty. We’re thinking about equal chances for the rain to be kind of normal or below normal.
“For the northern and eastern South Island there’s likely to be quite a dry lean – about equal chances for rainfall to be where it should be. For the west of the South Island, even interior Otago like Queenstown, we’re expecting rainfall to be near normal or above normal – so a wet lean.”
So maybe the tourist hotspot of Queenstown won’t be as appealing for a traditional summer holiday, and a holiday over in Christchurch or Kaikōura, or further north in Hawkes Bay and te Tairāwhiti, might be the place to go.
Brandolino says El Niño means spring and summer will be “lumpier”.
“We’re probably going to see these wild swings …. when it’s exceptionally warm, even hot, then we see much colder temperatures. In terms of growers, agricultural interests, we could see things like unusually strong cold snaps well into spring… and then surrounding that ‘let’s go to the beach’ because it’s so stinking warm!”
What about fruit and veggies we get at the supermarket? There’s been a bit of controversy over the prices and supply of them over this year. Could it get worse with El Niño?
While some farmers are predicting the summer to be tough, United Fresh president Jerry Prendergast tells The Detail hot and dry El Niño weather could actually spell some good news for fresh fruit and veggie growers.
“It’s been what we would call a relatively normal winter, in terms of growing conditions. In saying that, we’ve also had a lot of waterlogged land.
“We’re feeling quite confident that that crop is looking relatively stable and strong.
“[But] I always have to have this disclaimer now… we just need to be careful about saying all of that bad weather’s behind us. Because this brings up the subject of our summer El Niño effects.
“They are saying that dry weather is coming … it is quite positive for some of the crops going into summer. Dams are full, water tables are high, the ground is not dry, it hasn’t been dry through winter – it’s just been normal. It’s quite a positive effect, provided you’ve got good irrigation.”
But he says there’s still the potential for it to get bad.
“The last thing we need is a constant steady wind with high temperatures.”
Find out more about the forecast by listening to the full episode.
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