February 21, 2024

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Digital Solutions for Climate Resilience in New Zealand

Nations across the world have recognised the importance of adopting digital technology systems for climate prediction, particularly in sectors like agriculture, where professionals require accurate forecasts to strategise effectively. New Zealand known for its massive agriculture sector, is one such country.

Agriculture is the country’s largest sector of the tradable economy, accounting for 79.6% of the country’s total exported goods in the 12 months to June 2019. The industry directly contributed US$12.653 billion (or 5.1%) of the national GDP in the 12 months to September 2020 and employed 143,000 people, 5.9% of New Zealand’s workforce, as of the 2018 census.

Image credits: niwa.co.nz

As New Zealand’s economy is significantly dependent on agricultural and horticultural products exports, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) has ushered in a new era of precision agriculture and climate resilience by implementing a cutting-edge digital system. This transformative technology provides real-time updates on soil moisture patterns across New Zealand, offering unprecedented insights into the nation’s agricultural landscape and potential drought risks.

NIWA’s digital platform leverages advanced algorithms to produce real-time soil moisture anomaly maps. These maps, accessible through interactive interfaces, empower stakeholders, including land owners, policymakers, farmers, and communities, with instantaneous information crucial for making informed decisions. The digital system considers historical data, providing a holistic view of soil moisture deficits and surpluses, ultimately aiding in identifying regions prone to drought.

The digital platform excels in illustrating recent rainfall patterns and correlating them with corresponding changes in soil moisture. The visual representation of precise rainfall amounts and their impact on soil moisture levels enables a nuanced understanding of soil health and serves as an early warning system for potential drought risks. This digital tool becomes an indispensable asset for proactive agricultural management.

As a data visualisation expertise, NIWA implements digital forecasting to integrate with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to predict upcoming rainfall patterns. By leveraging AI, the platform enhances the accuracy of predictions, providing stakeholders with actionable insights into potential soil moisture increases or decreases. This proactive approach enables farmers to optimise irrigation strategies, ensuring sustainable water use and crop health by predicting rainfall anomalies.

Digital scenarios outlining future rainfall anomalies are crucial in long-term agriculture and water resource management planning. These scenarios, generated through advanced digital modelling, empower stakeholders to prepare for varying conditions and strategically address potential challenges. This forward-looking approach contributes to the development of resilient agricultural practices.

NIWA integrates digital indices, including a 60-day rainfall deficit, into the New Zealand Drought Index (NZDI). This digital integration ensures a more comprehensive assessment of drought conditions. While soil moisture anomaly maps provide rapid updates, the NZDI reflects changes over time, offering policymakers and resource managers a nuanced perspective.

The digital revolution extends to NIWA’s Hotspot Watch, a weekly advisory service that harnesses digital technology for precise drought assessment. Digital soil moisture deficit calculations, paired with soil moisture anomaly analyses, enable the identification of hotspots – regions facing extreme dryness with the potential to escalate into drought. This digital precision empowers communities to take timely and targeted actions to mitigate the impact of drought.

In an ongoing commitment to expand how agriculture industries or businesses access and interpret weather information, NIWA offers a bespoke solution – forecast videos. These videos transcend the conventional static forecast, providing a dynamic and immersive experience tailored to the needs of businesses operating in New Zealand, with the option for personalised presentations hosted by an NIWA meteorologist or the streamlined efficiency of automated videos. NIWA empowers them to stay ahead of the weather with unparalleled precision.

This personalised approach ensures that the forecast is not just data but a valuable resource comprehensible to industries across the range. With extensive knowledge, NIWA offers a nuanced perspective, translating complex meteorological information into actionable insights relevant to agriculture business or industry in New Zealand.


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