Outlook and Soil Moisture In the North Island, rainfall amounts during the next week could be highly variable due to uncertainty regarding the interaction between moisture from Tropical Cyclone Oma and a separate area of low pressure expected to form near New Zealand on Sunday and Monday (24-25 February).
Soil moisture levels as of 13 February are below normal for the vast majority of the North Island, with the driest soil compared to normal for this time of year in the New Plymouth District, parts of western coastal Waikato and the Aupouri Peninsula.
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Across the South Island, soil moisture levels generally decreased in northern areas, although small improvements were observed in interior Otago, Southland, and Stewart Island.
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Across the South Island, soil moisture levels generally decreased slightly in most locations, although small improvements were observed in Tasman and Buller District during the past week.
The driest soils in the North Island compared to normal are currently found in the eastern Far North District, around New Plymouth, and coastal Horowhenua. Across the South Island, soil moisture levels generally increased in Southland and the lower West Coast and remained constant or slightly decreased elsewhere.
The driest soils across the North Island compared to normal for this time of year are found across the Far North and Kaipara Districts in Northland, western Auckland, around New Plymouth, in the Central Plateau, and along west coastal Manawatu-Whanganui.
Across the North Island, soil moisture levels generally decreased during the past week due to lower than average rainfall for this time of year.
With the rainfall amounts anticipated in the next week, additional soil moisture improvements are likely parts of the central and eastern North Island with the greatest potential for soil moisture increase from the eastern Bay of Plenty through to the Hawke’s Bay regions, particularly in the higher terrain.
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In the North Island, another week of substantial rainfall is likely in many areas, which could lead to further soil moisture improvements. With substantial rainfall amounts anticipated in the next week, additional soil moisture improvements are likely in the northern half of the North Island.
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Across the South Island, soil moisture levels generally did not change substantially in northern areas this past week, but soils in central and southern areas continued to get much wetter than normal thanks to more heavy rainfall in recent days.
“Once it starts raining hard on a burn area, the things can get generated really fast, like five minutes,” says Kean.The debris flow can carry boulders and trees along with mud, making it more dangerous than a regular flood or a dry landslide.
Although flooding is likely in the West Coast due to the upcoming heavy rainfall, this will also mean significant increases in soil moisture levels across much of the South Island during the next week.
While soil erosion and sedimentation are entirely natural processes, the rates increased markedly due to loss of forest landcover with the arrival of people in New Zealand, says Dr Swales.
With the rain amounts expected in the east and north, soil moisture levels are anticipated to improve in the next week, while soil moisture should stay near constant or slightly decrease in the rest of the island where many locations will see total rain amounts less than 15mm.
An area of low pressure south of the country will bring a threat for heavy rain to the West Coast on Friday evening and Saturday with rainfall of 50-100 mm possible.
Parts of Queenstown-Lakes District in Otago, the Grey and Buller Districts in the West Coast, northeastern Marlborough, and the Waimate District in southern Canterbury experience well below average rainfall for this time of year, while the rest of the island had near normal rainfall.
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