26 Nov 2009

Regions dry as summer approaches

5:43 am on 26 November 2009

A climate specialist is warning that parts of the country are already looking very dry as they head into summer.

Farmers in Central Otago are reporting damage to pasture from a lack of rainfall during autumn, winter and spring, with one farmer assessing it as the driest spell in 75 years.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) says an El Nino weather pattern is forming that is likely to intensify in the coming months.

Its data shows the dry conditions prevail from Oamaru through to Wanaka, and include much of northern Southland.

NIWA agricultural climatologist Alan Porteous says some of that area has had less than 5mm of rain in four months of the year - March, June, September and November - which is very unusual. Windy conditions are drying land further.

He says soil moisture levels in much of Otago are not as low as this time last year, because of the relatively wet October.

Soil moisture levels are also getting low in mid Canterbury and eastern Northland, he says.

Federated Farmers Southland President Rod Pemberton, who has a property in Cental Otago, says the impact of the dry weather is obvious.

He says a neighbour whose farm has been recording rainfall levels for NIWA for decades says it is the driest it has been since 1933.