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NIWA’s swing and miss ‘wet winter’ forecast for Canterbury continues

The same government agency that forecast the worst drought since the 1990s this past summer is continuing to forecast average to above average rainfall in Canterbury this winter – the region currently is home to New Zealand’s longest ever running drought.

Despite the historical drought NIWA predicted a month ago Canterbury’s rain will be “where it should be, or greater than it should be” this winter.

But NIWA’s own soil moisture map disagrees with NIWA’s forecasts – showing the region remains well below average rainfall-wise:

NIWA forecaster Chris Brandalino said in his June forecast for Canterbury “In other words, another way of looking at it, a drier than usual winter seems pretty unlikely”.  But a drier than usual winter is underway – maybe August will see the change?

In NIWA’s July update just a few days ago Mr Brandalino reinforced this average to wetter than average message for Canterbury – without making any reference to why June had been drier than average.

NIWA is 100% owned by the NZ public, receives 120 million dollars a year in funding and the CEO John Morgan is one of New Zealand’s highest paid public servants on 620K a year.  Mr Morgan sees no need for open data (which means we can better share soil moisture maps with the public during historic droughts – and give NIWA more attention around their forecasts Vs actual reality).  Under Official Information Act NIWA “refused” to confirm if Mr Morgan personally receives financial bonuses for blocking data already paid for by the public.   Minister Joyce announced last month he is launching a formal investigation into NIWA’s lack of open data because no other country in the western world double charges the public for basic weather/climate observations, especially if it helps farmers, growers and the entire NZ economy.

In May predicted a drier than average winter for most of Canterbury – something we repeatedly shared with the Ministry for Primary Industries, and were the only forecaster in New Zealand to have this forecast.  We based this on a neutral pattern that was favouring a stronger northerly and westerly flow for rain – which usually doesn’t favour widespread soaking rains in Canterbury or the east.



Wally on 5/07/2016 9:21am

From a laymans point of view, it seems we as taxpayers pay twice for gathering climate and weather information – via Metservice and NIWA, but get woefully inadequate reporting and forecasting. We have paid for this information, why is it not publicly available? I’m not saying I could forecast any better (I’m certain I couldn’t) but there are many that might be able to (WeatherWatch included) with the benefit of more complete records. We have paid for this already. It should be available.

And with Metservice we are effectively being charged twice – once via our taxed, second via the predatory advertising they allow on their website. Many ads they allow are predatory and misleading and it is downright irresponsible they allow them on their website. And they do know about this because I have raised it with them directly. If these ads were delivered via email, any decent email filter would block them. To continue to allow them on the website is allowing them to prey on the vulnerable, and is incomprehensible for what is essentially a government department. 

Why are they subjecting us to advertising at all? We’ve already paid for their existence!

WW Forecast Team on 6/07/2016 4:22am

Hi there.  Thanks for the comments. We are working with the Commerce Commision (in fact this is incredible, we are are using a case MetService used against the Australian Government’s forecaster back in the 1990s when MetService demanded the Australian Government gave all competitors open access – now both NIWA and Metservice refuse open access in NZ!!) and with Senior Ministers and other Agencies to fix this.  

There are some great talented people at both NIWA and MetService – but the corporate management and sales people have said a number of concerning things over the years and this has lead to the formal investigation (with transparency from independent agencies) being conducted by Minister Joyce.

We are optimistic once the public – and Govt – see how many times the public pay for weather they will make changes to make it smarter and therefore allow true competition (even to WeatherWatch) to lift the bar in NZ.  

NZ is 24 years behind the western world with open weather data.


Philip Duncan

Tim on 5/07/2016 3:33am

G’day guys,

Interesting article and there is certainly no doubt about it this is an incredibly dry and warm winter for canterbury without doubt.

I guess we are all wanting to know the same answer is this weather going to continue like this for August and through into spring?? 

If so it will be a truly horrific situation for us indeed.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


WW Forecast Team on 5/07/2016 4:47am

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your feedback and question.  The weather pattern we have now (in July) still is behaving quite Autumn or Spring-like with brief bursts of cold, and plenty of mild or even warm – and also plenty of westerly quarter winds.  The pattern as we go through July continues this warmer, wetter, westerly flow.  Some brief rain (mostly north of Chch) on Friday, then around July 14 heavy rain on the West Coast may briefly ‘spillover’ into Canterbury with showers on the 15th – but the wind flow around mid July turns strong SW.  Around the 18th the nor’westers are back and maybe brief spillover rain, then more SW winds followed by what looks like an enormous high (the width of Australia) – although it’s too early to lock in how this high will behave as it’s two weeks away.  

We are currently in a neutral weather pattern – that means anything can be thrown at us, from all directions.  So even though the theme now (and perhaps for much of July) is drier and more westerly for Canterbury, we cannot yet see August with any confidence – but August is often when we get more southerlies and that might favour wetter weather for you (we’ll have a better idea in July’s third week how August is looking).  

There is another positive to look for – there is chatter that La Nina may be coming in this spring and summer.  Generally speaking La Nina favours more sub-tropical lows, easterlies and wetter weather for our eastern regions (especially the North Island).  

The Ministry for Primary Industries is in regular contact with us and we are sharing with them our thoughts on rainmakers (or lack of them).  What happens in August and September may be critical to working out a more long term picture of what is going on in Canterbury.  Sorry we can’t be more concrete but a lot is riding on the ‘chaos’ of a neutral weather pattern in winter to deliver the rain makers – right now the majority of them are hitting the North Island and not the south.


Philip Duncan

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