Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Chronicling abrupt climate change in Wellington

I posted this on Facebook this morning

It is 20C here in our kitchen, in the shade. The official temperatures say 18C. I have noticed throughout that my measured temperature is usually 2C higher than the official temperature for Lower Hutt.

I had to go for an appointment to the hospital Walking back to the car at 10.30 am I felt so hot I could hardly wait to strip down to my tee-shirt.

This is 10 days off from the beginning of May, the last month of autumn.

Coming back home it is dry, dry, dry.

How can people not see it? This is not normal, and it's not just the tail-end of an El-Nino.”

A comment on Facebook

Everyone I speak to is talking about the very long summer here in Wellington--it is the longest I have ever known. Many of those are talking about climate change even those who were hottly opposed 4 years ago. I was able to speak about our acquifers and the need for conserving water in the future due to climate change, without opposition.”


Drought conditions in rural Wellington
Observing rapid change around us on a farm in Makara


If you look at photo below the farm where we keep Biscuit (aka Seemorerocks) and Lucy conditions have been pretty lush and green and for at least six of the past nine years have been this way.

Contrast that with the photo above where the stream is extremely low and the water is practically stagnant.

We have both being looking with increasing alarm as conditions change on the farm as we have seen what I would regard as 2-3 years of drought conditions on the farm.

Last summer things dried out to an extent previously not seen and the wetland dried out for the first time during the time we've been there.

This was exacerbated by the wonten destruction by spraying of the ecosystem of  the stream which I have chronicled below.

The winter did not see a real healing of the drought conditions (witnessed by areas which would, in winter, normally turn to mud remaining relatively dry.

This summer has seen conditions deteriorate further with climate change- induced  drought exacerbated by el-Nino conditions.

See how the stream has looked for most of the time we have been on the farm

There is practically no feed at present and the hills (where the horses graze)- have never looked so bare.

In the meantime there is an air of unreality on the farm. The comments I am getting is "the drought is behind us" and all the while the (so far) prolific quantities of hay are being wasted - being fed in large quantities to the horses in gay abandon and even selling hay to one of the grazers (for his horses off the land) at an extremely heap $7 a bale.

When I sent an email to the farmer (who until recent years made his livelihood as an engineer for Solid Energy and the coal industry) with an interview with a warning by NIWA (the NZ equivalent of NOAA) he came back with comments including "

"Read the 1976 Gaia Theory by Prof Lovelock (and later books by the same author available at central library) for a good description of the eco, social and political drivers that make global warming (NOT CLIMATE CHANGE!!) inevitable."

Global warming - NOT CLIMATE CHANGE!!

He even pointed me to the Gaia thesis of James Lovelock which I have been aware of for only about 25 years!

The mind boggles.

While others continue in a state of abject denial and wilful ignorance both Pam and I worry about our horses and wonder how long this and (or any other) will sustain our horses.

This was always land where there was never a problem with either water nor feed.

This is  how the farm looked from the top in the year we moved our horses there.

The following are my observations about the change of climate in Wellington since 2003 (corresponding to our time with horses here)


I feel somewhat qualified to do that because for the last 12 years I have had a horse who I have visited at least twice a week.

I can remember the last time that Wellington had a frosty winter with lots of fine days. I remember that clearly because Pam and I would get up every Saturday morning to travel out to do a horse trek early in the morning. We both remember the most perfect frosty mornings with much pleasure.

That was in 2003.

There has not been a winter like it since.

For several years since then the number of frosts could be counted on one's ten digits. Mostly it was a case of wading through the mud to reach my horse.

For at least 4-5 years since I moved Biscuit to his current grazing the winters have produced up to five flooding events each season.

Then, for at least the last three years the pattern changed and the summers produced very dry conditions and,although interlaced with storms and floods the winters have been extraordinarily mild and it has always been my feeling that the land has never quite recovered the requisite soil moisture so that (it seems to me) that the drought effects (never declared as such, except for short periods) have been cumulative.

Last summer the wetlands on the farm completely dried out and the mud became cracked. I have a feeling we are headed for the same again this summer.

Just about everyone you talk to seems to think that whatever the conditions are it is 'normal' or 'one-off' and will be 'better next year'.  So I will continue to depend on my observation.

In short, it ain't in any way or form how it used to be when I was younger - I can remember back about 50 years.

And ain't ever going to be normal again. Never.

And here are my observations of the ecocide that took place last summer (which was also a drought that saw the wetlands on the farm dry out for the first time in ten years.

Paradise Lost

Tonight I feel depressed and dispirited and in considerable grief

After working on this blog, I go out to the farm to clear my head from all the shit that's happening and to visit our horses. It is usually a wonderful antidote even though I am no longer able to ride over the land as I used to.

Except now, the engineer who owns the farm has planted going into a drought, dug up the land and made the place look like an engineer's playground by filling it with tractors, front wheel loaders etc.

But, the worst of it is he has destroyed what a few weeks ago was a living stream and turned it into a wasteland by spraying the bank with what I take to be Roundup herbicide.

Just a few weeks ago this was a bank with lots of wonderful edibles where our horses loved to graze, including water cress and willow, getting all sorts of minerals and goodness.

Now, it is dead.

I can't even begin to think what this has done to the soil and to the ecosystem, as well as to protect the bank of the stream in the time of a drought that does not show any signs of abating.

This does my head in and am reminded of everything that is being done to the planet - like poisoning the waterways with fracking waste in the midst of a drought, extracting water for bottling, or increasing the deforestation of the Amazon.

Look at the comparison. Both these photos were taken from the same bridge - the first in late October, when Guy McPherson visited. That die-off is from spraying with herbicide.

This was, just a few weeks ago a vibrant, stream, now destroyed by an act of vandalism

All the wonderful plants that fed our horses and protected the bank of the stream in time of drought has gone/

People like Mr. Engineer on the farm remind me of the insanity of our species. That's after having to cope with the roadworks and other shit going on on a country road to get there.

What was something that was somewhat one step removed is now a constant kick in the guts.

Beam me up Scotty!

P.S. To see what it was that kept bringing me out see this -

And some recent, more general observations of conditions locally.

We are in mid-autumn and it is as dry as ever and termperatures are uncannily hot. I am still going around in shirtsleeves when I should be preparing for the cold weather of winter.

El-NinoWeather update Down-Under

The el-Nino in the South Pacific

Last night I went to bed early and fell asleep to be woken up,partially by activity in the house but also by sudden wind that came up from the south. Anyone who has been in this country will know that this is where the cooler weather comes from: a southerly usually means either a storm or settled, fine weather.

This was different. The heat was stifling and when I realised that I was awake I got up to see what the temperature was. It was 22C, only 2 degrees cooler at midnight than it was during the day.

These are not the extremes of a heat wave – we’ve experienced hotter. But the difference is that in a place which weather is notoriously changeable and usually windy, this weather pattern has been with us for several weeks on end with scarcely a drop of rain.

Being by now completely sleepless I decided to check Climate Reanalyzer. The map for the Pacific showed the still-strong el-Nino, but nothing prepared me for the map of sea temperature anomalies around Australia and New Zealand.

This el-Nino weather pattern became clear to me.

Earlier, in October I wrote an article hoping to chronicle progress of the el-Nino in Wellington

Soil moisture deficit and comparative flow rates for the Hutt River, Wellington

To bring this up-to-date I checked the flow rates for the same place in the river that I had.

The graphs, however seem to make it impossible to make any meaningful comparison because the scales are different.

However this small article from the local Hutt News makes it more clear

Regional council will monitor low river flow by Lower Hutt CBD

The Hutt River was so low on Boxing Day it was almost possible to cross without getting wet feet.
Jim Chipp

7 January, 2016

The Hutt River was so low on Boxing Day it was almost possible to cross without getting wet feet.
The Hutt River was so low on Boxing Day that it was almost possible to skip across from Marsden St to the Lower Hutt city centre without getting wet feet.
Greater Wellington Regional Council environmental hydrological scientist Mike Thompson said no real-time data was collected south of Taita Gorge.
At the Taita gauge, the river was not abnormally low for the time of year and weather conditions.
The apparent low flow at the Lower Hutt city centre stretch of the river was interesting, he said.
"Clearly, it's something we need to keep a bit of an eye on."
The council's flood protection department had not undertaken any recent works in the area which might have affected the shape of the channel, but the channel's bed had been raised by gravel deposits during last year's rainfall events.
It was possible that more water was moving through the gravel, resulting in the appearance of less surface flow when the river was low, Thompson said.
The Greater Wellington website records daily river flow at Birchville.
Last Wednesday's average river flow rate was 6336 litires per second, well above the threshold of 1450 l/s when some level of restriction applies to how much can be taken for water supplies.

 - Hutt News

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