North Island storm

We’ve only had a small amount of rain, a bit more breeze and a bit of cooling in the south, but there has been a major storm affecting much of the North Island and upper South Island.

Stuff:  Deadly storm causes travel chaos amid evacuations and widespread flooding

A woman has died after a tree fell on to a car in Rotorua, as a storm brings devastation and travel chaos to large parts of the country.

Niwa said 41mm of rain had fallen in Auckland since 9am on Thursday – more than the total amount of rain in November and December combined.

The wild weather prompted Air New Zealand to cancel or delay all regional flights. Flights in and out of Tauranga and Rotorua were also cancelled, with many more delayed.

The ASB Classic tennis tournament was a washout for a second day in Auckland, and the final won’t be played until Sunday.

The storm, which had entered into its second day, had caused widespread damage across much of the North Island and upper South Island.

Stuff: From drought scare to deluge despair: The science of the storm

After a period of calm, dry weather for much of the country, in which century old records for dryness were toppled, the furious storm from the north seemed to come out of the blue.

What may at first seem like atmospheric whiplash was actually a case of cause and effect – and may be a taste of things to come.

The sub-tropical low roaming down the country, which formed earlier in the week near Queensland in Australia, is the most significant storm to hit New Zealand in many months.

Part of the storm’s intensity, however, can be traced back much further, to the settled days of late November when much of the country was cloaked in sunshine and worrying about drought.

A weather pattern consistent with La Niña caused arm temperatures and widespread dryness, particularly in the south. It didn’t rain at all in Christchurch for more than 40 days, an effect which spread like a halo to much of Canterbury where rainfall totals for the month were in single digits. In Milford Sound, the wettest part of the country, it didn’t rain for 23 straight days.

Those warm, dry, and settled conditions contributed to an unusual phenomena: a marine heat wave, in which sea temperatures around New Zealand were about 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average.

Off the west coast, in the Tasman Sea, temperatures were as much as 6C above normal – at the time, it was the largest sea temperature anomaly in the world.

When weather conditions are settled – effectively meaning a lack of wind – there is no mechanism for deeper, colder water to come to the ocean’s surface, which keeps the seas warm, says Niwa scientist Chris Brandolino.

“Warm ocean temperatures release a lot of heat and a lot of energy into the atmosphere, and if you have a storm or a low pressure passing over that, it can provide the necessary energy to really ramp up the intensity of the storm”.

“In other words, if the same storm were to pass over waters that were cooler than average, as opposed to warmer than average, I’d be shocked if we got a similar result.”

That effect is a major reason why climate scientists say rising temperatures will increase the intensity of extreme weather events: warmer oceans can empower storms, potentially increasing rainfall amounts and wind speeds.

Stuff:  Living on the Edge: What climate change means for Taranaki

The climate change debate has hogged headlines recently but its influence on humanity is undeniable. In the first of a six-part series called Living on the Edge, reporter Deena Coster takes a deeper look at what it means for Taranaki.

The rough and rugged Taranaki coastline will be unrecognisable in 100 years’ time.

Houses once dotted along the coast will be lost, as coastal erosion and rising sea levels steal away the very land they rest on.

Creating a clear understanding of which areas of New Zealand are vulnerable to sea level changes is at the heart of a new $8m study.

For the next five years, the NZ SeaRise Programme will attempt to provide accurate estimates of the magnitude and rate of sea level rise for coastal regions to the end of this century and beyond.

Detailed maps will be drawn up from the data in order to show larger seaside settlements where its vulnerabilities lie.

One involved in the study is Professor Tim Naish, of the Antarctic Research Centre, based at Victoria University of Wellington.

He says regardless of what changes are implemented now, a 50cm sea rise by 2100 is unavoidable.

“That’s built in; we can’t avoid that.”

In Taranaki, Naish says rivers like the Waitara, Waiwhakaiho and Te Henui are going to rise, creating a flooding risk to low lying areas nearby.  The frequency of big storms hitting the region is also likely to increase.

Coastal erosion is another biggie.

Naish says adapting or doing something to protect itself is something local authorities are grappling with around the country.

Damage done to property and infrastructure through the effects of climate change, or budgeting to protect key assets, can represent a “big economic cost” to councils, but this needs to be balanced against the consequences of doing nothing, he says.

The social toll also can’t be ignored, including the potential relocation of communities away from at-risk areas in future years.

“That’s where it gets really difficult.”

 

9 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  January 6, 2018

    Pretty wild Southerly wind still battering North Welly. At least the rain has stopped. Going outside soon to see if my 3 day old baby pooklet survived a rough nite on the stream bank.

    We lived near the sea where I grew up in Taranaki & there was already noticeable coastal erosion happening there all the time in the 60s & 70s. There’s nothing between there & Aussie & The Tasman storms always serves up massive waves.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 6, 2018

      I cannot believe how little we have had of the storm-touch wood-just the odd branch down and a lot of twigs lying around as well as rain. It isn’t cold at all and it’s humid again today.

  2. Pickled Possum

     /  January 6, 2018

    Morena Gez 😉
    Its cold and still a bit windy up here Rain has stopped and the pool is full ready for the little people to play around in. I see there is going to be a heatwave here soon,again.
    Mushrooms popping up. Almost south seas barmy weather, I feel a song coming on.
    The plums grapes kiwifruit etc and vegy garden are just going off. Plum jam for Africa.

    I wonder if the trees that have blown over around the motu are all willows, it looks that way. Most of the trees blown over and split at the base of it trunk in our area are giant willows. Time to cut those buggars down I reckon.

    All that rain just makes the grass grow more … sigh …mowing lawns weekly.
    but on the plus side the lettuce radishes beets etc are just powering along.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 6, 2018

      I don’t really want to hear about your mushrooms and the rest, thank you, Possum. (looks for brick to throw through Possum’s window)

      • Gezza

         /  January 6, 2018

        Tch tch. Jealousy is a terrible emotion. ☝🏼️

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 6, 2018

          Oh, pooh to you, too, Mr Nyah-nyah-I-have-a pook-family-and-you-haven’t. (runs away crying)

      • Pickled Possum

         /  January 6, 2018

        Jez miss get help pleze or a boyfriend. Runs away laffing manai8cally?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 7, 2018

          Shan’t. (pokes tongue out and makes rude face)