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Drought hazard

Effects of the 2013 drought in Wairarapa. Image credit: NIWA

Drought is defined as a prolonged period where rainfall is lower than normal for a particular place. 

While variation in rainfall is a normal natural phenomenon, drought becomes a hazard when the effects of the continuing dry period become greater than people who live and work in the area can manage.  

Effects of a drought

Droughts can affect plant growth and the ability of farmers to feed their stock. The reduction in rainfall may also affect river levels and the availability for water for irrigation, stock and domestic use. The dry conditions may also increase the fire risk.

Historical droughts in the Wellington region

The summer of 2012/13 was notably warm (temperatures were between 0.5 and 1.2 C above average), sunny (the sunniest March since records began) and dry (most regions experienced below average rainfall). In Wellington we had our average March monthly rainfall in one night, with almost no rain during the rest of the month.  An official drought was declared across the entire North Island on 15 March 2013.

Frequency of droughts

Droughts are common in New Zealand, and their effects can cover a wide area and recovery can take several years. It is forecast that eastern parts of New Zealand will see increasing levels of drought through the 21st century.

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