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Sandwiched between the extreme weather of February and July (with more lashing the country at present), Autumn seemed comparatively peaceful. But it was not without natural hazards, according to the latest update from the Natural Hazards Centre.

Sizeable earthquakes were recorded in the North Island, although the largest were at a depth of over 40 km. The biggest were: 5.1 at Kawerau (March 12) and Ohura (May 5); 5.2 at Maketu (May 31); and 5.4 offshore in the Bay of Plenty (April 17).

The 50 Southern Alps glaciers monitored annually by NIWA gained ice mass in the past year.

NIWA Senior Climate Scientist Dr Jim Salinger said today that after analysis of photographs taken on the survey of the glaciers in March this year it was apparent they had gained much more ice than they had lost during the past glacier year.

Just ten days after the state of emergency was lifted in Whakatane, the Bay of Plenty is to host a major conference on the management of natural hazards.

The conference will be held at Baycourt in Tauranga, Tuesday 10th – Wednesday 11th August.

“It could hardly have been more timely,” says Dr Warren Gray of NIWA. “Delegates will hear about the practical implications of the latest science on flooding, coastal hazards, landslides, volcanoes, and earthquakes.”

NIWA and the Orange Roughy Management Company (ORMC) have just successfully completed their survey of the numbers of orange roughy on the eastern Chatham Rise.

Go to the east coast of the North Island, and the climate will be about 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer, on average, than at the same latitude on the west coast.

The reason: subtropical water brought across the Tasman Sea on an ocean current known as the Tasman Front. It’s an extension of the East Australian Current – the playground of surfing sea turtles in the movie, Finding Nemo.

The NIWA vessel, Kaharoa, is setting sail on a 90-day voyage to deploy high-tech floats between New Zealand and Peru.

Kaharoa will carry 84 floats, which is the largest number ever deployed in a single voyage. Each float is worth about $20,000, making the total worth over $1.6 million.

The floats can help scientists measure global warming, predict the strength of tropical cyclones, and even get a better fix on the path of toxic algal blooms.

The story of February’s storms is described in the latest issue of Natural Hazards Update.

NIWA scientists have been simulating flooding in Milne Stream near Halswell to study the effect of plants along the banks of Christchurch streams. The study is a joint project between NIWA and the Christchurch City Council, and field work wraps up tomorrow (Friday, June 4).

Another toxic algae is added to the list of harmful marine algae in the waters around New Zealand.

NIWA’s research vessel Tangaroa leaves Wellington tomorrow tonight for the Southern Ocean on one of New Zealand’s largest oceanographic research surveys. The 30 scientists on board, from 17 organisations in 6 countries, will study how the ocean controls climate through the uptake and release of crucial greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

That is just one of many issues scientists, industry, and government representatives will discuss at a workshop on climate change and greenhouse gases in Wellington on Thursday and Friday this week.

The wild weather that saw parts of the lower North Island and top of the South Island under water last week had a definite touch of winter about it.

A New Zealand research vessel will set sail from Wellington Harbour this Sunday bound for Chile as part of a major international project to understand and predict the phenomena influencing the world’s climate.

On 27 January 2004 a team of scientists set out from Wellington on board NIWA’s research vessel Tangaroa bound for the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

“As New Zealand enters the third day with temperatures soaring into the mid thirties, the significance of this early 2004 heatwave is only being recognised as the official figures are filed,” said Senior Climate Scientist Dr Jim Salinger.

Two rare New Zealand seaweeds have been discovered in Northland, and they could have exciting commercial applications for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

Scientists thought they had seen the last of a drifter buoy lost during an experiment in the Southern Ocean in 1999. But to their amazement, the buoy has turned up halfway around the world in the Falkland Islands – albeit looking a little worse for wear.

If you thought this winter seemed a little more hazardous than usual, you would be right. From floods and droughts to extreme storm surges and magnitude 7 earthquakes, this winter outstripped last year for the sheer numbers of natural hazards.

Forty years ago anglers in New Zealand were actively encouraged to ‘kill eels on sight’. Although the attitude towards eels has changed significantly since then, it has not stopped our native longfinned eel stocks declining, mirroring the global downward trend in freshwater eel recruitment.

The NIWA research vessel Tangaroa, which rescued British rower Jim Shekhdar from the waters of the Southern Ocean earlier this week, had just finished mapping the shipping lanes of Foveaux Strait.

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