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Climate Change Issues for East Coast of New Zealand – May 15th, 2013

43.7S 172.8E

May 15th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day

New Zealand – May 12th, 2013

Climate change models for the East Coast of New Zealand predict less rain and warmer temperatures than at present in the decades to come. The rate of sea level rise, currently running at over 0.2mm per annum, is projected to increase significantly due to thermal expansion and polar ice melts. These incremental changes to our weather and to the marine environment are anticipated to be magnified by periodic extreme events.

The Banks Peninsula Zone (bottom edge) with its extensive coastline and dependence on surface water will most likely be significantly affected by climate change. Whilst overall rainfall is expected to decrease by about 10% it is predicted that there will be a higher occurrence of intense rainfall events resulting in the flooding of low-lying areas, and an increased risk of slips and road closures.

At the other end of the extreme events scale the likelihood of drought is expected to double. This will impact on water supply and primary industry, and increase the risk of fire. Strong winds, predominantly from the West, combined with higher temperatures and low humidity would be likely to exacerbate the fire risk further.

In addition, the predicted sea level rise caused by climate change will impact negatively on the coastal margins of the Zone. Estimates of the rise in mean sea levels vary between 50cm and 80cm by 2090. In this scenario, low lying areas will be affected by erosion and inundation, and at times of high tides and storm surges these incursions will be increased (click here for more information).

Climate Change’s Potential Effects on New Zealand

44S 170.1E

April 2nd, 2013 Category: Climate Change

New Zealand – April 2nd, 2013

Human activity is increasing the natural level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing Earth to warm up and the climate to change. The effects of a warming planet and disrupted climate pattern are already becoming evident.

In New Zealand likely climate change impacts include: higher temperatures, more in the North Island than the South, (but still likely to be less than the global average), rising sea levels, more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts (especially in the east of New Zealand) and floods, as well as a change in rainfall patterns – higher rainfall in the west and less in the east.

These changes will result in both positive and negative effects. For example: agricultural productivity is expected to increase in some areas but there is the risk of drought and spreading pests and diseases. Forests and vegetation may grow faster, but native ecosystems could be invaded by exotic species. Drier conditions in some areas are likely to be coupled with the risk of more frequent extreme events such as floods, droughts and storms.

Rising sea levels will increase the risk of erosion and saltwater intrusion, increasing the need for coastal protection. Also, snowlines and glaciers are expected to retreat and change water flows in major South Island rivers, such as those visible in this image, flowing down from the Southern Alps and glacial lakes (click here for more details).

Glacial Lakes Amongst Southern Alps of New Zealand

44.8S 169.2E

February 27th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes, Mountains

New Zealand – February 26th, 2013

Glacial lakes can be seen here, nestled amidst the peaks of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Scientists have found that hundreds of steep mountain glaciers, which rapidly pass their ice gains down to their termini, have all fluctuated in size due to climate change over the last 35 years.¬†Between 1976 and 2005 the volume decreased more than 10%, from 54.60 km3 to 48.74 km3. More than 92% of this loss was from 12 of the largest glaciers.

For the big glaciers, glacial lakes have begun to form at their fronts as lowering ice levels reach the level of their outlet rivers. Once a lake has formed, it eats at the glacier far faster than surface melt. At the front of the glacier, the ice cliff calves bergs into the lake. This positive feedback ensures a massive and catastrophic depletion of the glacier volume, creating an irreversible tipping-point for the glacier. It would take an ice age climate to drive the glacier back across the lake and to reverse the process (click here for more information).

Vegetation of New Zealand’s North Island

38.8S 175.9E

December 25th, 2009 Category: Climate Change

New Zealand - December 16th, 2009

New Zealand - December 16th, 2009

This FAPAR image shows the Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation of New Zealand‘s North Island. The northernmost tip of the South Island is also visible at the bottom left.

In FAPAR images, the color spectrum over land runs from red (1.0), to green, to yellow and white (0.0), while bodies of water, such as Lake Taupo in the center of the North Island, appear blue. Green to dark red areas indicate the presence of good to high photosynthetic activity, while yellow areas indicate low activity.

The history, climate and geology of New Zealand have created a great deal of diversity in New Zealand’s vegetation types. The main two types of forest have been dominated by podocarps and southern beech. In the north of New Zealand the podocarp forests were dominated by the ancient giant kauri. These trees are amongst the largest in the world, holding the record for the greatest timber volume of any tree; unfortunately, most of these trees were felled.

The remaining vegetation types in New Zealand are grassland of grass and tussock, usually associated with the subalpine areas, and the low shrublands between grasslands and forests.

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