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The abundance and sizes of fish within the Kapiti Marine Reserve have impressed research divers who have just completed a survey to assess how well the marine environment has recovered since it was protected in 1992.

Internationally significant new evidence of the vital role in global climate change played by the Southern Ocean has been assembled by a multi-national New Zealand-led research team during a 30-day scientific expedition into Antarctic waters, 2500 miles southwest of New Zealand.

Dr Rob Murdoch, Regional Manager of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said today in a message from NIWA’s research vessel Tangaroa that the studies had been extremely successful and "scientists are excited by the preliminary results.

French researchers are now, or soon to be, closely involved in a range of New Zealand environmental and marine studies taking in such diverse activities as migratory problems of fish including eels, the foraging habits of royal albatross in southern oceans, and the potential tsunami impact of undersea landslides.

NIWA's research vessel Tangaroa sails from Wellington tomorrow [Sunday, 31 January] on a month-long million-dollar, multi-national scientific expedition that will take her 2000 miles southwest of New Zealand into the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

The earth’s temperature in 1998 was easily the highest in the global record reaching back to 1860. The final confirmed global mean temperature was 0.56°C above the recent long-term average based on the period 1961-1990. The previous warmest year globally, 1997, was 0.43°C warmer than average.

"The public should be aware that the UV radiation over New Zealand, particularly in the north of the country, will be particularly high over the next few days under clear sky conditions", said National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) scientist Paul Johnston.

NIWA scientists have applied statistical techniques to predict ozone levels, and hence the UV levels, that may be expected over New Zealand for the coming summer.

Crayfish living along the Abel Tasman National Park coastline will be introduced to the silicon chip age later this month.

An international centre for post-graduate study in ocean and atmospheric research is being established in Auckland. The Institute of Aquatic and Atmospheric Sciences will be a joint project between the University of Auckland and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

The chances of a remnant tropical cyclone crossing northern New Zealand is raised this summer and autumn, according to research by NIWA climate scientists. And there is a very real chance that some part of New Zealand will see either the high winds or heavy rainfall these systems produce.

"During La Niña episodes the risk of a cyclone coming south and reaching New Zealand from the tropics increases," said senior NIWA climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger. "On average, Northland experiences two direct hits per decade, or one chance in five in any given cyclone season.

New Zealand scientists with internationally recognised skills will be teaming up with top level American researchers both in the US and New Zealand to find solutions for environmental problems common to both countries.

Higher than usual risks of tropical cyclones are predicted for the melanesian countries of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the coming tropical cyclone season, according to climate scientist Reid Basher of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). "This is because of the La Niña conditions which have begun to affect the South Pacific region’s climate this year" says Dr Basher.

The Crown-owned National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA) exceeded budget projections by recording a pre-tax profit of $5.29 million in the 1997-98 year to June 30.

Great concern over the strength of the Government’s commitment to research, science and technology as articulated in the RS&T 2010 strategy was expressed by the directors of the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in their annual report.

The Chairman, Mr Don Sollitt, said the Government’s last budget round initially contemplated major reductions in the Public Good Science Fund (PGSF).

"It was only as a result of very strenuous efforts that the case was accepted for maintaining this critical national investment.

The 1998 Antarctic ozone hole is unusually large and formed very early.

Dr Stephen Wood, NIWA, Scott Base, Antarctica

According to preliminary NASA satellite data it is now the largest on record, last week covering more than 27 million square kilometres, around 5% larger that the previous record set in 1996. Like the 1996 ozone hole, it developed much more rapidly in late August and early September than other years. However, this year the ozone hole has remained stable for longer and is now 20-25% larger than the 1996 ozone hole was on this date.

Observations in the tropical Pacific confirm that a La Niña event is now under way and is continuing to strengthen. "It looks like this La Niña is shaping up to be the most significant since the 1988/89 La Niña", says NIWA climate scientist Dr Jim Renwick. "Sea temperatures in the critical region along the equator in the central Pacific are now well below average."

A joint New Zealand-German marine scientific expedition costing over of $2.5 million will explore a series of undersea volcanoes including "Rumble III" 200 kilometres north of East Cape. It will also carry out geophysical surveying and seabed rock sampling along the South Pacific "Ring of Fire" in the latitudes of the southern Kermadec Islands.

A significant shift in the New Zealand climate has occurred during the past 20 years.

Developing atmospheric conditions in the equatorial Pacific Ocean point to La Niña weather conditions prevailing over New Zealand by Christmas according to NIWA senior climate scientist Dr Brett Mullan.

Climate statistics disclose that the global heatwave of 1998 is also affecting New Zealand.

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