New Zealand gets drier as annual rainfall decreases, Stats NZ says
As heavy rains caused dramatic flooding, rescues and evacuations in Canterbury over the weekend, new data shows New Zealand is increasingly drier.
Average annual precipitation for the five years through 2020 was 3.1 percent below the previous five-year average and 10.7 percent below the five-year average for 1996-2000, according to Stats NZ.
Between 2016 and 2020, New Zealand’s average precipitation – including rain, sleet, snow and hail – was 504,988 million cubic meters.
This figure is down from the average of 520,890 million cubic meters over the previous five years and from an average of 565,691 million cubic meters in 1996-2000.
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Stats NZ’s director of environmental and economic accounts, Stephen Oakley, said seven of the North Island’s nine regions experienced drought conditions in 2019, with their lowest rainfall in the 25 years through June 2020.
Northland experienced the largest percentage decrease, with only about 64% of the region’s average annual precipitation in June 2019.
In 2020, rainfall was relatively low on the North Island, while the South Island saw a notable increase.
“This is the first time since 1998 that precipitation across the North Island has been lower than in the West Coast region alone,” Oakley said.
While below-average precipitation had a large impact in parts of the North Island, the South Island experienced a less pronounced decrease.
Average precipitation in the South Island over the five-year period (2016-2020) was only 1.5 percent lower than the previous five-year average.
Six of the seven regions of the South Island experienced a decrease in average precipitation (over the period 2016-2020) compared to the previous five-year average.
Southland was the only region to reverse this trend with an average increase in rainfall of 6.6% over the same period, effectively alleviating the South Island’s rainfall deficit.