New tool to help in drought resilience

Emma Crutchley.

A new tool to provide more accurate drought forecasts will help farmers make decisions, Maniototo farmer Emma Crutchley says.
Niwa and the Ministry for Primary Industries have developed and launched a new tool to predict dryness and drought to help farmers and growers be better prepared for challenging weather conditions.
Ms Crutchley, the Irrigation New Zealand director, said any forecast, short or long-term, was good.
‘‘What we find is if we can get a more accurate medium-term forecast, then that enables us to respond rather than working off a short-term forecast where you’re making reactive decisions all the time.
Having as much information as we can around an uncontrollable thing, which is the weather, is really helpful to resilience in the farming business.’’
Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll said the free tool used the latest in artificial intelligence and long-range weather modelling and provided week-to-week predictions of rainfall, dryness, and potential drought 35 days into the future.
The outlook updates daily, capturing the latest changes in the climate system and offers long-term forecasts at a much higher spatial resolution than previously available.
The launch of the tool comes after official confirmation that the El Nino weather pattern has developed in the Pacific.
El Nino events typically come with an increased risk for abnormally dry conditions across many regions of New Zealand, particularly in the north and east.
The new tool was already making a big difference.
‘‘This tool enables us to give more frequent and district level predictions of rainfall, dryness, and drought. Providing advanced warning of future dry spells will be invaluable.’’
Ministry rural communities and farming support director Nick Story said the new software programme would be invaluable.
‘‘The tool has been tailored for the primary sector and we’ve collaborated with farmers and growers over the last three years to ensure it provides usable information. Farmers and growers can utilise this tool to prepare in advance for drier than normal weather and the impacts this might have on production, pasture growth, and animal welfare.’’