New tool revolutionising drought forecasts

Posted on Thursday, 16 November 2023 under Latest Edition

A recently introduced tool, which is a collaborative effort between NIWA and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), aims to enhance farmers' and growers' readiness for challenging weather conditions by predicting dryness and drought. Employing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and advanced long-range weather modelling, this free tool offers week-to-week forecasts of rainfall, dryness, and potential drought up to 35 days in advance.

The tool's predictions are updated daily to reflect the latest climate system changes, and it provides long-term forecasts with a significantly higher spatial resolution than previous options. This launch coincides with the official confirmation of the development of the El Niño weather pattern in the Pacific, which typically heightens the risk of abnormally dry conditions in various regions of New Zealand, particularly in the north and east.

The drought forecasting tool is based on the NIWA35 platform, integrating a 35-day global forecast model from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (USA) with data-driven techniques to enhance predictive accuracy at a local level across New Zealand.

Serving as a companion to the NZ Drought Index (NZDI), an observational tool introduced in 2017 in collaboration with MPI, the new forecasting tool measures current dryness and drought conditions. Its user base includes a wide range of stakeholders in the primary sector, as well as government and industry bodies.

There has been an extensive effort invested in ensuring the tool is accessible to those who require it. In the context of climate change, where rising temperatures contribute significantly to increased drought risk, having this tool is expected to bolster the country's preparedness and resilience to potential droughts, both presently and in the future.

Try out the Drought Forecasting tool here.

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