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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.

Globally, February 1998 was the most above average month in the instrumental climate record.

Extremely hot nor’westers tumbled March temperature records in Canterbury and North Otago yesterday.

The current El Niño episode in the Pacific is weakening and is expected to have departed by mid-winter, according to NIWA senior climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger.

New findings by scientists at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) have revealed that the death of kina, starfish, and possibly other fishes, in late January and early February off the Kaikoura coast appears to be linked to toxic algae.


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