High resolution drought forecasting

NIWA and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are working together to develop a new drought forecasting tool.

On this page:

Link to drought forecasting tool 

View the drought forecast tool here

If you have questions or feedback, please contact one of the people below.

NIWA and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are working together to develop a new drought forecasting tool, with each organisation investing $100,000 in the project.

Stock struggling in hot, dry weather -  Wairarapa, New Zealand

The tool uses innovative climate modelling, the latest in machine learning and other data-driven techniques. It will help farmers and growers better prepare for periods of dryness and drought

The tool updates daily to provide forecasts at a much higher spatial resolution than previously available. This will enable the provision of district-level predictions of dryness and drought.

Intro video about NIWA and MPI drought forecasting tool

Have you seen our new drought forecasting tool?

Building on NIWA’s long history of drought forecasting

NIWA has provided Aotearoa New Zealand with seasonal rainfall predictions since 1999, when its Seasonal Climate Outlooks began. 

In 2017 NIWA and MPI launched the NZ Drought Index (NZDI), an observational tool which measures the current state of dryness and drought.

Turning drought observations into forecasts: the NIWA35 deep learning model

The drought forecasting tool is part of the NIWA35 platform, which is using machine learning and deep learning to make high resolution sub-seasonal climate predictions up to 35 days ahead.

NIWA35 uses input data from a model issued daily by the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NIWA uses the input data, alongside state-of-the-art deep learning, to create a downscaled (higher resolution) and more accurate forecast for Aotearoa New Zealand. This important step better captures the climatic variability that occurs across the country’s complex terrain.

NIWA35 has been producing rainfall predictions since March 2021 and predictions for soil moisture and potential evapotranspiration are in development. The main goal of this work will be to combine the outputs of these different predictions to create a forecast of meteorological drought risk that is consistent with the NZDI. This will enable those across the primary sector to be more informed about the potential for abnormal dryness and drought than ever before.

Regular briefings and real-time end user engagement

As part of the project, NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll provides regular briefings to MPI about drought risk across New Zealand, including presenting content from NIWA35 in development. This enables end users of the drought forecasting tool at MPI to give feedback in near real time as the project progresses, and this feedback to be incorporated into future development.

Research papers and posters