New Zealand’s intense rainfall in 2021 has inundated swathes of land areas in New Zealand’s West Coast and Canterbury region, damaging properties, infrastructures, and farmlands.
As of writing and editing this post, the East Coast, particularly Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, are bracing for torrential rain.
The NZ Herald published “Climate change worsened Westport deluge – study,” which reports that total claims from weather damage amounted to more than $130 million.
The Atmospheric River system brought heavy rains followed by severe flooding across the lower North Island and upper South Island, hitting Westport on the West Coast of the South Island most severely, leaving 450 homes damaged and unlivable.
Westport, a town on the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand, has had three days of heavy rain fuelled by the ‘atmospheric river’ dumping more than 150mm of rain, causing the Buller River to swell – its highest in 95 years. Waist-high waters caused by the river flooding forced residents to evacuate the area.
But West Coast is no stranger to heavy downpours being a temperate rainforest. The Southern Alps’ orographic effect on rainfall makes the area the wettest part of New Zealand. But last year’s bout of heavy rain and the recent event in February 2022 prompted scientists to investigate climate change’s influence on it.
A study by the Extreme Weather Event Risk Attribution Machine (EWERAM), published in the journal Weather and Climate extremes, confirmed that Westport’s rainfall and the flooding in Canterbury floods in May last year were made more intense by climate change.
Researchers combined the global climate models with New Zealand’s Met Service and NIWAs weather forecast models to determine climate change’s influence on New Zealand’s extreme weather. Their findings show that climate change was behind New Zealand’s severe weather.
Without immediate and deep emissions reductions, New Zealand and the rest of the world will suffer immense damages and losses due to climate change impacts. Communities at the forefront of climate change impacts should start planning and implementing climate change strategies and reducing GHG emissions.
Read the entire study by clicking the link provided in the “Source” below.
Dáithí A. Stone, Suzanne M. Rosier, Leroy Bird, Luke J. Harrington, Sapna Rana, Stephen Stuart, Sam M. Dean, The effect of experiment conditioning on estimates of human influence on extreme weather, Weather and Climate Extremes, Volume 36, 2022, 100427, ISSN 2212-0947, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wace.2022.100427.