WHY THERE IS GOING TO BE A BAD DROUGHT THIS SUMMER
The climate pattern that brings us very hot, very dry, drought-stricken summers is called El Niño. It's Spanish for ‘the child' and originally referred to specific warm winds off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, but it has taken on a wider meaning in climate terms.
In NZ, it's short for the El Niño Southern Oscillation, describing a climate pattern which tends to bring stronger or more frequent westerly summer winds, typically leading to drought in east coast areas and more rain in the west. In winter the winds tend to be chillier southerlies. In spring and autumn, southwesterly winds are more common.
NIWA'S climate experts say this year's El Niño is tracking close to the last big one of 1997-98 which triggered widespread drought and was the strongest since 1950. It's expected to ramp up over summer, staying with us until at least March 2016.
The 1997-98 El Niño event cost NZ more than $1 billion in farming losses.