A brief summary of climate and hydrological conditions in the region.
This service is only updated during periods in which closer monitoring is required (regardless of time of the year), in recognition that there is potential for dry spells, or irregular hydrological recharging. It does not define an official council position on drought or drought declaration.
Updated 9 September 2022.
Next update due when there is a significant change of conditions, as the situation evolves.
Very significant, widespread rain fell in the region during winter. The western side of the ranges had the wettest winter on record by a far margin, even for long-term recording sites going back to almost 150 years of observations. This is a very significant wet phase of a climate signal, amplified by the fact that summer was also the wettest on record for both Wellington and the Wairarapa.
In the Wellington case, various slips developed as a result of the extreme saturation levels of the soil which had already carried on the abnormal moisture from summer. For the Wairarapa, the winter rainfall was less impressive but still above average.
As a result, soils and underground water for the Wairarapa remained reasonably replenished and within normal levels for the beginning of spring. Some farms experienced damage and losses due to excessive winter rain, after a lack of summer drying.
The global climate remains ‘phase-locked’ into a semi-permanent La Niña mode. This cooling of the Equatorial Pacific contributes to more marine heatwaves around New Zealand (via the oceanic circulation). This helps explain the excessive rainfall and remarkable incursion of atmospheric river events during both summer and winter.
Thanks to the background global warming and the semi-permanent La Niña, 2022 was the second consecutive year with the warmest winter on record for both our region and New Zealand as a whole.
Most dynamical climate models are predicting the persistence of high pressure south-east of New Zealand into spring, continuing with significantly warmer than average seasonal temperatures.
A prevailing La Niña easterly flow is expected to alternate with strong westerlies at times. Humidity corridors (atmospheric rivers) under the influence of moist tropical air masses are expected to continue to occur, albeit less frequently in spring.
A continuing negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole can also contribute towards above normal rainfall on the western coast and about normal in the Wairarapa, with a large month-to-month variability expected.
The ‘normal’ longer-term water balance is becoming increasingly hard to maintain quite possibly due to climate change influences, and increased high frequency climate variability, with more unreliable weather patterns.
Droughts are expected to become more severe and frequent in the Wellington region, particularly in the Wairarapa. Even if international climate policy efforts successfully contain global warming under 1.5-2 degrees (the Paris Agreement’s ambition), it is important that we enhance our water resilience and be prepared for a “new normal” climate pattern, significantly drier than in the past.
We note that the warming temperatures also mean that evapotranspiration will greatly increase. There is some evidence that our soils are getting drier, and groundwater storage may be decreasing, in the long-term.
Browse the data
How different has recent rainfall/soil moisture been compared with the same time in previous years?
|Kapiti Coast (lowland)||Otaki at Depot|
|Kapiti Coast (high altitude)||Penn Creek at McIntosh|
|Porirua||Horokiri Stream at Battle Hill|
|Wellington City||Kaiwharawhara Stream at Karori Reservoir|
|Hutt Valley (upper catchment)||Hutt River at Kaitoke Headworks|
|Upper Hutt||Upper Hutt at Savage Park||Upper Hutt at Savage Park AQ|
|Wainuiomata||Wanuiomata River at Wainui Reservoir|
|Wairarapa (high altitude)||Waingawa River at Angle Knob|
|Wairarapa Valley (north)||Kopuaranga River at Mauriceville|
|Wairarapa Valley (Masterton)||Ruamahanga River at Wairarapa College||Wairarapa College AQ|
|Wairarapa Valley (south)||Tauherenikau River at Racecourse||Tauherenikau River at Racecourse|
|Wairarapa (north-eastern hills)||Whareama River at Tanawa Hut||Whareama River at Tanawa Hut|
|Wairarapa (south-eastern hills)||Waikoukou at Longbush||Waikoukou at Longbush|
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