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Scientists Prepare For Floods And Drought

Scientists are figuring out when we'll have too much rain and when we'll have too little.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is undertaking research to help us understand New Zealand's floods and droughts.

"The research will give us longer warning times and better knowledge of the size of the problem we're dealing with," said study leader Warren Gray.

"Through an improved understanding of the physical processes, we're developing systems that can really give us a handle on the weather animals out there.

"We've got computer models of the weather systems that now connect right into hydrological models of our rivers. That gives rapid access to the very heart of the problems we're interested in - forecasting the height of the river! When we improve our models, we can see an immediate improvement in our river forecasting skill."

The research is an investment of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and is enabling New Zealand to have it's own unique weather computer programmes.

"We're learning that there are no off-the-shelf solutions to these problems. Ours is a unique environment and we need to do the research here to understand what's important for local weather," said Dr Gray.

"Our mountainous terrain, our position in this large ocean, the weather systems that approach our shores - these are all aspects that make our weather environment different.

"We have also been looking at droughts. Even to get a measure of the degree of impact of a drought can be difficult, as simple statistics often don't relay the complexity of the problem.

"We have been trolling weather records to provide statistical methods for depicting the degree of severity of drought. Better statistics of the characteristics of droughts, like the regional variability, give us the chance to prepare better for their effects."

The programme will make these results available not only to planners and the authorities in charge of flood protection and warnings, but also to the public to increase their awareness of floods and droughts.

For further information:

Dr Warren Gray, Tel 04 386 0332, Mobile 025 203 9949

Madeleine Setchell, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 9177 806, Mobile 025 40 60 40,,

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