Unwelcome records loom for hot, dry region
Christchurch weather records look set to be broken by more scorching and dry days.
Residents are switching on fans and dragging out the paddling pools with temperatures today, Saturday and Sunday forecast to reach 33, 31, and 29 degrees Celsius respectively.
Low water levels and sticky roads have led to calls from authorities for people to take care.
While the forecasts are short of the December record temperature of 36C in 2015, the city is headed for a record dry spell after a rainless November. Christchurch’s average December high is 21C.
As of yesterday, the city had gone 42 days without more than ‘‘a few spits of rain’’, according to the MetService. The record, set in 1954, is 45 days.
The city’s next rain is due late on Sunday, but is expected to be just brief showers. Fire restrictions will be in place in the Hurunui, Waimakariri and Selwyn districts, and in the Christchurch City Council area, including Banks Peninsula, from midnight tomorrow. Water restrictions are also possible soon.
MetService said rain soil moisture levels had taken a hit, ‘‘reaching a severe moisture deficit already’’. Sunday’s showers were not expected to be sufficient to boost ground moisture levels.
This November was the driest in the city for 150 years.
The city council has asked residents to use water sensibly after 30-plus temperatures last Saturday and Tuesday, with high-20s in between, triggered a spike in water use not seen since 2009.
The council wanted people to water gardens only in the early mornings or evenings, and not more than every second day. Overuse could lead to supply issues, a drop in pressure and problems for firefighters.
The reservoir servicing Clifton Hill is low and residents there are being asked not to water gardens.
The Waimakariri and Selwyn district councils have also asked for sensible water use.
Canterbury dairy farmers are facing a second year in a row that a dry November has followed a wet spring with poor grass growth.
Irrigation NZ chief executive Andrew Curtis said farmers irrigating would need to manage their water allocation carefully. He advised thorough checking of equipment to minimise leaks, and using water meters to monitor usage.
Climate researcher Niwa said soil moisture levels had continued to fall across the South Island this week. Hot spots for dryness included Nelson, northern Tasman, coastal Marlborough, nearly all northern and central Canterbury, coastal South Canterbury, Clutha, and eastern and central Southland.
While rain would boost soil moisture in Fiordland and the West Coast next week, things in the east would keep getting drier, Niwa said.
The NZ Transport Agency urged motorists to drive cautiously on melting roads with South Island road temperatures expected to exceed 50C until Monday.
Spokeswoman Lee Wright said recent hot days had already started melting bitumen, creating sticky surfaces for motorists. This was coinciding with the usual summer roadworks programmes.
‘‘Drivers may see our roadworks teams out and about laying more small chip over the top of the affected surfaces to help absorb the bitumen, and possibly water trucks spraying water on the roads,’’ Wright said.
She advised motorists to drive with care and patience, be aware that black bitumen had poor skid resistance, slow down if they saw a sticky surface ahead, and slow down.
Driving at 30kmh and not braking on melting surfaces was advised, as speed could send stone chips flying into the windscreens of other cars, while driving too slowly would cause tyres to stick.
Careful irrigation and watering control is urged.