Overview and objectives

Overview and objectives of the Climate Present and Past project.


  1. Observe, interpret and communicate climate science for New Zealand and the South Pacific region.

We will maintain and analyse core indices, time series and reconstructions which capture the behaviour and characteristics of both surface and atmosphere climate.

  1. Maintain and update observations, analyses and reports about NZ’s cryosphere.

New Zealand’s cryosphere – the ice and snow which cover it – is a critical component of the local climate science system. It is highly relevant and valuable for managing our natural water resources, and to the international climate science community.

Gathering and analysing a range of climate data

This project aims to gather and analyse a range of diverse climate data. These include:

  • field observations
  • reconstructions of the past from natural archives
  • remote observations using sensor data.

We also perform quality control, analysis and interpretation of the data. This allows us to make accurate reports about the current climate to a range of national agencies, industries,  sectors and communities.

A diverse array of work

The work we are conducting is diverse. It provides a foundation for studies on:

  • climate variability
  • climate change, including extremes and paleoclimate.

It also integrates with and provides data to other programmes of work across NIWA. In particular, the project is crucial to supporting national climate research programs about:

  • climate dynamics
  • climate research applications to industry
  • modelling climate change risks and opportunities
  • seasonal climate predictions
  • climate change impacts
  • adaptation estimates for the range of natural variations in climate.

It also provides important information for atmospheric science based at here at NIWA, for example:

  • Kidson synoptic weather types
  • atmospheric circulation indices that track airflow across the country
  • air quality experiments.

A diverse array of benefits

Our focus on current weather and climate research means we can communicate a long-term context to New Zealand and international audiences a context for monthly, seasonal and annual climate-related information.

In general, we publish more detailed work on how recent events compare with the past in peer-reviewed research journals or NIWA reports. 

Our research and documentation of a wide variety of climate and meterological data benefits New Zealand’s:

  • universities
  • Crown Research Institutes
  • government agencies,
  • independent researchers.

It also fulfills several of New Zealand's commitments to internationally-recognized organisations, which require regular updates and analysis of climate data and indices. These organisations include the World Meteorological Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change