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Severe storms

What

As temperatures increase, so too does the atmosphere’s capacity to carry more moisture. This can result in more severe rainfall events, which is likely to result in more floods.

Extreme winds are also expected to increase over the next century. Given our place on a narrow island nation in the Pacific, Canterbury/Waitaha already often experiences strong winds, but these may become stronger and more frequent.

In addition, the temperature differences between the land and the sea will become more pronounced in summer, which can cause more of the strong north-easterly airflows we are already so accustomed to.

Although we are expecting increases in extreme wind and rain in our region over the next century, these projections are significantly lower than for other parts of New Zealand/Aotearoa.

Impacts

Severe storms not only endanger lives, but can cause considerable damage to our landscape, communities and infrastructure. These events can stretch our emergency services and resources, as well as having long-lasting social, psychological, economic and ecological impacts.

Extreme rainfall can result in floods, landslides and soil erosion. Alongside extreme winds, all these events have the potential to affect our environment and the diverse range of plants and animals that inhabit it.

Floods can pose a serious hazard to public health through damaging water supplies and exposing contaminated sites, potentially leading to the transmission of water borne diseases.

Many of our urban and rural communities are located on flood prone areas. Christchurch International Airport is located within a flood zone, making it vulnerable to disrupted operations which could severely impact tourism and supply chains. Our marine facilities, like ports and wharves, are also at risk due to storms and winds.

Increased flooding and high rainfall will create challenges for agriculture due to the potential for waterlogged soils and crop damage. Farmers may look to new crops to mitigate this.

Our forestry sector is at risk of being affected by extreme weather events, such as storms and high winds, which can cause forest damage and soil erosion.

However, there is an opportunity to harness increases in wind speed to help with the production of renewable energy.

An increase in the frequency and severity of storms could have a significant cultural impact on iwi, hapū and Māori, potentially damaging marae, taonga species, and key sites for practices like mahinga kai.