7 Jun 2013

NZ getting drier and warmer

11:00 am on 7 June 2013

A New Zealand climate scientist says the country is developing a more Mediterranean climate which will have big implications for many farmers.

Jim Salinger has been working with NIWA studying the history of agricultural droughts in New Zealand from 1941 to this year.

He presented his latest findings at the New Zealand Climate Change Conference in Palmerston North this week.

Dr Salinger says in terms of the amount of moisture required by agriculture, research shows the country is drier by 100 millimetres and the North Island by 75mm.

He says there has also been a tendency for anticyclones to linger in the summer season which produces drought and dryness patterns.

Dr Salinger says the trend for a more Mediterranean type of summer, particularly in the North Island, is forecast to continue through to the 2050s.

North Island farmers and those on the West Coast who want to keep dairy or livestock farming should be thinking about their options, he says.

That could include storing water, water harvesting, looking at different types of pastures such as lucerne or alfalfa which put down deep roots.

Dr Salinger says what's made New Zealand agriculture very cheap and successful has been a mild climate with reliable rainfall all year, but it seems rainfall will not be as reliable as it has been, particularly in the western areas.