2022 Year in Review

Read NIWA's 2022 Year in Review.

The NIWA 2022 Year in Review is available to download as a PDF document (PDF 7MB) and a digital Issuu publication:

Chairman and Chief Executive Review

Our climate and our world are changing, fast. 2021 was New Zealand’s hottest year since records began, and we’ve had the three warmest winters back-to-back. Our climate scientists have a clear warning – we must brace ourselves for more frequent and intense storms in the years ahead. NIWA can’t stop it raining, but we can help communities prepare and adapt. 

As New Zealand’s leading environmental science provider, our ability to accurately forecast hazards is rapidly evolving. Forecasting is central to what we do – with our continually improving processing power and precise modelling, we can more accurately predict when and where heavy rain will fall, where it will go once it hits the ground, and what may happen when it gets there. 

Our meteorologists and climate scientists, with concomitant investment in our data science capabilities and our High-Performance Computing Facility, have developed a state-of-the-art national river flow awareness tool. We can use this tool to translate high-resolution forecast data into advanced catchment flow projections – 48 hours in advance – for more than 50,000 catchments across New Zealand.

When Westport flooded last year, this tool played a key role in managing the inundation, helping save lives and property. Bob Dixon, Westport’s Civil Defence Controller, said the advice they “were receiving [from NIWA] around the modelling and predictions matched, almost to the letter, what was happening on the ground,” adding that “it was great science to have in [their] back pocket, giving peace of mind about the decisions [they] made.”

We aren’t stopping there. NIWA natural hazards modeller Dr Emily Lane is leading a five-year, multi-partner research programme – Mā te Haumaru ō te Wai – which, for the first time, will map flood hazard and risk through a national lens. Dr Lane and her team are working with researchers, iwi, stakeholders, and government to investigate flood inundation hazard and risk, co-developing fair and equitable strategies for communities to become more flood resilient. 

These are just two of many forecasting programmes underway at NIWA. At the opposite end of the spectrum is our longestablished drought forecasting work, and we are currently working with the Ministry for Primary Industries to develop a new drought forecasting tool. The tool uses innovative climate modelling and the latest in machine learning. It will help farmers and growers better prepare for periods of dryness and drought by updating daily, providing forecasts at a much higher spatial resolution than previously available. 

Since 2014 we have been collaborating with fellow Crown Research Institute GNS Science on a risk modelling tool for natural hazards called RiskScape. RiskScape is a flexible, detailed framework for calculating natural hazard consequences, and part of its strength lies in a fully holistic approach that accounts for people, buildings, infrastructure and the environment. It passed a significant milestone in 2022, being launched to the public under open licence. 

The RiskScape team took home the prize for Best Hi-Tech Solution for the Public Good at this year’s NZ Hi-Tech Awards, being personally congratulated on stage by Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.

We also launched new and improved software for use in weather, climate and environmental forecasting – Cylc 8. This software is enhancing our environmental information service by improving the efficiency and complexity of forecasts. Cylc is open source and used throughout the world by organisations such as the UK MetOffice and the US Air Force. 

To be forewarned is to be forearmed

Our corner of the world is highly prone to natural hazards – from flooding, which is our most frequent, to earthquakes, which are our most costly and deadly. We are using world-leading science, inspiring and embracing national and international collaboration, to ensure the best brains in the business are engaged to tackle these threats.

2022 Annual Report

NIWA's 2022 Annual Report is available to view and download at niwa.co.nz/about/annual-reports/2022-annual-report