The east of the country is rapidly drying out with soil in deficit of up to 50mm of rain for this time of year, and there is no immediate end in sight.
Niwa forecaster Ben Noll said in parts of Gisbourne, Marlborough, Canterbury, east Otago and Southland, they are seeing very dry to extremely dry conditions for April.
“Soils are in deficit up to 50mm below the normal for the time of year, that is a substantial margin.
“We are going to need several soaking rainfall events to make up that deficit after what was quite a dry March across the country but especially east of the South Island.”
“It’s quite a dry state of play as we go into mid-autumn.”
Christchurch’s total monthly rainfall for March was 19mm which is 41 per cent of the normal amount for this time of year.
Dunedin had 13mm which is 20 per cent of normal and Oamaru had just 8mm, the fourth driest month in its history.
Akaroa farmer Hamish Menzies said it has been exceptionally dry at his property.
“It’s come on top of a really dry year. It’s been about 18 months of dry weather and has just continued.
Menzies said the writing has been on the wall for a while.
“We started destocking a while back by selling off trading cattle. Now we have a mix of strategies to get through a dry year, you sell stock, you feedstock, you graze them out.
“The creeks are low, the water supplies are low.”
They have recorded about 25mm of rain at their farm in the last three months.
“The big thing will be if it rains at the end of April, good rain we could possibly squeeze out of it. But if we don’t, next year could be potentially catastrophic.”
Although the conditions are extremely dry, Noll said it is unlikely anywhere will enter a meteorological drought due to the time of year.
“During this time of year, the water is leaving the ground less and less. There is less evaporation and our days are shorter so the chance of drought is low but the point still stands that it is very dry for the time of year.”
Menzies said he finds that quite interesting.
“I’d say a number of people over here would be saying we are in a drought. That’s what it feels like.”
Banks Peninsula farmer Roger Beattie said it is much of the same at his place.
“It’s been pretty dry since Christmas really. It feels drier than any other year we’ve experienced.
“For the first time in the 20 years we’ve been farming, I’ve seen plants that were established in the late Summer that have actually died. It’s really unusual.”
Noll said over the next three months, there is a near equal chance for below normal or near-normal rainfall for most areas on the east.
“So it does look there will be some rain but as we go through the next few months, long dry periods will probably still be on the cards.
“We may see some alleviation but overall its going to be an uphill battle, a slow climb towards a more normal state of play. There will still be rain, just not as persistent or soaking as you might like.”
Beattie said the forecast is worrying but he thinks trying to predict rainfall in the future is like trying to look through a crystal ball.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen. Historically, if it’s dry, then it’s more likely to rain.”
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