Despite a strong rain dump over the long weekend – and this week more to come – meteorologists say the Auckland area is still facing a long recovery from its six-month drought. And those hoping to end the worst dry spell in the area in a quarter-century will not be pleased to hear this month bring even longer periods of rainless weather – Winter Season.
With no strong climate catalyst expected over the winter over New Zealand, forecasters say it is hard to tell what relief the area might be getting in the medium term.
But there is potential for a reverse version of the same mechanism at the end of the season that fuelled Australia’s bushfires, and kicked off drought conditions here, to shape and carry some much-needed spring moisture.
Niwa indicated a 71 percent likelihood in its latest seasonal outlook that ENSO-neutral conditions-indicating there was no El Nino or La Nina in the mix to mess with our weather-would continue for the next three months.
“When you’re looking at multiple months ahead of time, you really want to understand who is at the steering wheel of Mother Nature’s car,” Niwa forecaster Chris Brandolino said.
“If you can, then you have a pretty good idea about which direction we’ll be gravitating toward.
“ENSO-neutral means things can be a bit muddy – and the predictability of things becomes more challenging.”
When it stood, for at least the first half of the winter season, the same climatic conditions which had led to dryness over much of New Zealand were expected to affect our weather.
Following some unsettled weather early in June, an unusually dry pattern is expected to emerge during the 2nd week of the month
Details from Chris & Ben
— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) May 29, 2020
Air pressure to the north of, and occasionally over New Zealand, was expected to be higher than average through the winter season.
Generally, air temperatures in the east of the South Island were most likely to be above normal, and just as likely to be below normal or above average in all other areas.
Elsewhere, rainfall rates were most likely lower than average in the east of both islands, above average in the west and north of the South Island, and just as likely to be above normal or lower as normal in the north and west of the North Island.
Nonetheless, at the close of winter came the probability of an Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) – a seesaw-like mechanism that usually has three phases – came at the end of the season, neutral, positive, and negative.
It formed a temperature difference across the tropical Indian Ocean in a positive state, with the east cooler than normal water and the west warmer than normal water.
Last year it brought an IOD that entered one of the most highly optimistic states in recent history, setting the stage for devastating fires across Australia when combined with an extreme El Nino.
Yet the IOD that might shape this year was projected to be negative, possibly bringing rain into New Zealand’s normally dry areas.
“The intensity of this IOD is still up in the air – but it doesn’t look like it will be as intense, or the polar opposite, of what we saw last year,” Brandolino said.
Yet there was always the risk that a negative IOD would inject tropical moisture into weather systems entering New Zealand – and with the recent downpours, the country was getting a taste of that.
For the rest of today, the most widespread and heaviest rain is forecast to impact the Waikato, BoP, Hawke’s Bay and lower North Island.
Note the purple
colouring which indicates the risk for heavier rain.
Travellers watch for changeable conditions. pic.twitter.com/9CQplPvbLF
— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) May 31, 2020
“So, we can expect that what we’re getting [currently] will become more common as we head into spring.”
As for the short-term drought relief, Brandolino has not had a lot of good news to deliver.
“People are going to be saying, ‘look at all of this rain’. Well, I can tell you, after this, and a bit rain throughout the week, it’s going to go dry again for much of June.”
And there was a long way to go to make up a rainfall shortfall that was standing at 250 mm at the beginning of last week – or to top up the levels of Auckland dam that were still sitting at just 43% of capacity today.
“Getting some rain now is good, obviously. If you’re $100,000 in the hole, and you win $20,000 on a scratchie, that’s great, but you still need 80,000 bucks.”
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