New Zealand faces 'triple dip' La Nina summer, risk of drought

Soil moisture levels and river flows are likely to be below or near normal in all regions over the next three months. PHOTO: REUTERS

WELLINGTON - New Zealand is bracing for a third consecutive La Nina summer, which brings the risk of repeat drought in some regions and a marine heatwave.

The La Nina weather pattern, which tends to result in warmer air and sea temperatures around New Zealand, strengthened over the last two months and is very likely to continue in the three months through December, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said Thursday in Wellington.

"This will likely culminate in the third La Nina summer in a row, a 'triple dip'," the institute said. "While no two La Nina events are the same, there may be some similarities with last summer, which featured widespread hot and humid conditions, a marine heatwave, drought in the lower South Island, and several ex-tropical cyclones passing near New Zealand's coasts."

Drought conditions have the potential to disrupt hydro-electric electricity generation on the nation's South Island, and impact dairy production, New Zealand's biggest export.

That may bring further downward pressure on economic growth, which is already slowing amid a housing downturn and rising borrowing costs.

The institute said soil moisture levels and river flows are likely to be below or near normal in all regions over the next three months, apart from parts of the North Island that may be exposed to high rainfall events.

Coastal sea surface temperatures were above average in September, and there is a risk of a repeat heatwave that the marine sector should monitor closely, the institute said.

Earlier this week, aquaculture business New Zealand King Salmon reported a first-half net loss after suffering a surge in fish mortality when water temperatures rose over the 2021-2022 summer. BLOOMBERG

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