Backgrounder

Backgrounder

Special purpose climate stations - complementing the national climate network.

Besides maintaining a national climate reference network and data archive, NIWA frequently deploys special purpose climate stations to collect vital data for projects or to ‘fill in’ knowledge of the climate in data-sparse areas.

The additional weather stations can support climate sensitive industries such as agriculture and horticulture. The data enable better assessments of risks of extreme weather such as high winds and heavy rain, and more subtle conditions like leaf wetness and high humidity that can cause the onset of disease. Data from previously unstudied areas improve planning for new crops. In other cases, special stations collect meteorological measurements to improve energy use in New Zealand (email [email protected] for more information) and to assess the potential for solar and wind energy.

NIWA also works cooperatively with MetService to ensure data from key ‘weather indicator’ locations are systematically archived and available for weather and climate research to improve forecasting.

Quality Control

Monitoring the climate is not just a matter of sourcing a few low cost instruments and attaching them to a pole somewhere. Quality assurance starts with a careful choice of instruments, understanding how they should be calibrated and placed in position, dealing with a myriad of issues involving data communication and archiving, and finally turning the observations into useful information.

North Canterbury farm climate station. The instruments take hourly samples of wind speed, radiation, rainfall, relative humidity, and air and soil temperatures.

For example, data from a climate station set up recently on a farm in north Canterbury, shown in the adjacent photograph, is monitored on a weekly basis at the National Climate Centre to ensure the sensors are working normally, and that the data represent the ‘real world’ as closely as possible. The data from the farm will soon be available over the web, and will be used to create climate information products that the farmer will be able to access to assist with decisionmaking.

NIWA Instrument Systems (NIS), based in Christchurch, designs and deploys special purpose climate stations. In addition, NIS has advanced capability in capturing and communicating data from a wide range of environmental conditions and situations.

For more information, contact Graham Elley 0-3-343 7850, or [email protected]


Arthur Borrell – farmer, pioneer environmentalist, and voluntary weather observer.

Arthur Borrell - farmer, pioneer environmentalist, and volunteer weather observer.

One of the perhaps less known contributions to New Zealand life made by widely respected farmer Arthur Borrell, who died recently at the age of 75, was a near three decade contribution to New Zealand’s National Climate Data Archive. Mr Borrell, former owner of the 33 000 ha Branches Station at the headwaters of the Shotover River, installed a rain gauge soon after purchasing the property in the early 1970s, and recorded the rain and other weather phenomena daily until May 2001. His data and comments, sent each month to the national archive in Wellington, provide valuable information on high country rain, snowfalls, frosts, and river flow. That many of his all weather trips to the rain gauge were made in his customary attire of bare feet and shorts simply adds to his reputation as a high country farming legend. NIWA pays tribute to Arthur Borrell’s commitment to understanding and preserving New Zealand’s high country environment.


Sensing the climate at Rose Ridge, Southern Alps. Measurements of snowfall and temperature assist Meridian Energy in scheduling electricity generation. (Cover photo: Bob Newland)