25 Mar 2017

New drought tool launched

5:30 pm on 25 March 2017

A new tool will allow daily drought information to be made available to farmers and water managers, allowing them to see which regions are the driest.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has spent two years putting the New Zealand Drought Index together and launched it yesterday.

The index takes into account rainfall and soil moisture to colour code a map of New Zealand to show the severity of drought in each region.

Each region in New Zealand is then colour-coded with five categories of drought from 'dry' to 'severe drought'.

NIWA climate scientist Andrew Tait said it would be a one-stop shop for farmers, irrigators, water managers and others to know about dry conditions.

"Essentially we had a number of different indicators of drought. There were maps on how much rainfall there's been over the last 15 or 30 days or 60 days," he said.

"There were products ... that looked at the soil moisture and how that has been changing over time.

"But there wasn't any one single index people could go to for the definitive description of drought conditions.

"We looked around the world. We looked at the way different countries are doing this and these combined drought indices are quite popular around the world so we've decided that's what we need for New Zealand."

Dr Tait said the data came from climate stations located around the country.

"We are extremely reliant on the data that's collected around the country every hour of every day.

"It puts even more emphasis on how important it is to keep monitoring the climate and monitor it well and have good and accurate data.

"Without that network of data collection ... then a tool like this would just be impossible."

Click [https://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/information-and-resources/drought-monitor here to see where current dry conditions are.