New Zealand has continued to promote and collaborate in research and systematic observations on climate change, as required by Articles 4 and 5 of the Convention. Central government expenditure on climate change-related research for the 2007/08 financial year is estimated at approximately NZ$55 million, an increase of around NZ$23 million over the amount reported in the Fourth National Communication.106 This expenditure was complemented by substantial expenditure by regional governments and the private sector.
Expenditure on systematic observations by central government included NZ$11.9 million through contracts to the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited (MetService) for its observing network, and NZ$1.4 million through contracts to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) for maintaining the National Climate Database. Through this expenditure, climate observations have been maintained, new knowledge has been generated about climate change and its impacts in New Zealand and the southwest Pacific, and adaptation and mitigation options are being identified and developed.
New Zealand continues to contribute actively to the work of the IPCC. New Zealand supports a representative on the IPCC Bureau and the Bureau of the Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories as well as participating in task groups, workshops, expert meetings and contributing to the IPCC’s Assessment reports.
New Zealand research groups have participated in international research and observation programmes of the World Meteorological Organization; the World Climate Research Programme; the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and its Pacific component (PI-GCOS); the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme; and the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research. New Zealand scientists are active participants in the Livestock Emissions Abatement Research Network (LEARN). Building on this network, New Zealand is also seeking to establish a global alliance on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research.
Under a New Zealand government contract, MetService provides some assistance to a number of Pacific Island nations with their weather and climate observing systems. With other New Zealand funding, NIWA has undertaken a Pacific Islands data rescue programme. Past New Zealand overseas development aid programmes have covered training in technical maintenance and observing practices in several of these states. New Zealand continues to lead the publication of the Island Climate Update, a monthly paper and web publication produced by NIWA with the support and collaboration of various organisations in the Pacific Islands, Australia, the United States and France. The Island Climate Update provides updates of current climate conditions and outlooks for the coming season to help Pacific Island nations adapt to climate variability and change.
The New Zealand Government operates a balanced portfolio of research that aims to address core national needs and support areas of national research excellence. It also aims to maintain and develop international links that ensure collaboration with international research programmes and contribution to, and rapid uptake of, emerging new global technologies.
Research providers are mainly selected by competitive bidding, although some recent substantial long-term contracts have been made by negotiating outcomes with research providers. To be allocated funding, the areas of research must align with the strategic directions and goals set by the Government. Funding for climate change research is dominated by central government programmes, with additional contributions from local government and the private sector, including a number of joint ventures and partnerships. Government-funded research ranges from fundamental and underpinning research, to applied and operational research, including the development of specific tools and technologies. The range of different funding mechanisms is explained in more detail below.
The Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology coordinate climate change research and capability across government. Other government departments focus their attention on sectoral issues, for example, agriculture and energy. The Ministry also liaises with other government departments involved in climate change policies and strategic policy development, and liaises closely with New Zealand scientists and science organisations to monitor and review the adequacy of the climate change research portfolio to meet national needs. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry leads research relevant to the land-based primary sector under the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action (the Plan of Action), an integrated approach to climate change for land-based sectors (see section 4.3.5).
Additional input to strategic research directions comes from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Climate Committee, which also facilitates interactions between scientists and stakeholders in New Zealand. This Committee maintains New Zealand’s international links with the World Climate Research Programme. The Royal Society also supports the National Committee for the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which links New Zealand research with international IGBP projects.
New Zealand faces a number of significant challenges in meeting its climate change research needs. The diversity of the country, with climatic zones ranging from subtropical to subantarctic, means research has to address climate change projections and the likely effects of climate change on a diverse range of ecosystems. Mitigation and adaptation research has to cover equally diverse issues including: transport in a country with a low population base but large travel distances; substantial agricultural and forestry activities; energy demand and supply; and the sustainable development of growing urban settlements, often at or near coastal areas. The dependence of New Zealand’s economy on export and international trade also means that mitigation options need to be compatible with the commercial requirements and technology standards of the international market.
New Zealand has a unique emissions profile among developed countries, with about 48 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions coming from the agricultural sector. Given this unique profile and the significant contribution agriculture makes to the New Zealand economy, New Zealand faces a particular need to undertake research to understand the climate change impacts and adaptation options for agriculture, as well as options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from this sector. The Government has joined with the private sector to form the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (see section 4.3.3), with the goal of developing tools that facilitate the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector without loss of productivity.
As part of the Primary Growth Partnership, the Government established the domestic Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research, which has been allocated NZ$5 million funding each year. It will be 100 per cent government-funded, with no requirement for industry co-funding and a commitment to 10 years’ core funding. Research will focus on ruminant methane, nitrous oxide and soil carbon in the pastoral and horticultural sectors. The aim of the research will be to promote technologies that both reduce emissions and improve on-farm efficiency and productivity.
In addition to the domestic centre, the Government is actively promoting the establishment of a Global Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research. This initiative would bring interested countries together to drive greater international cooperation, collaboration and investment in this area of research. In this way, the Global Alliance aims to help reduce emissions from agricultural production and improve its potential for soil carbon sequestration, while safeguarding food security.
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) has the main responsibility for funding climate change research from public investment. FRST has 18 portfolio research strategies that provide the overall direction for its research investment. Each strategy is further arranged into target outcomes and themes that relate to a specific desired outcome.
Most of FRST’s investment in climate change research is funded within the Understanding and Adapting to Global Environmental Change (GLO) portfolio, which invests in knowledge and data sets that underpin and enable management of the social, economic and environmental risks and opportunities associated with global environmental change and variability. The GLO portfolio has two target outcomes: GLO1 addresses the characteristics, causes and consequences of global change and variability, while GLO2 covers mitigation and adaptation responses to global change and variability.
Climate change research is also undertaken within other FRST portfolios where climate change and variability may have a significant impact on aspects of that sector (eg, the Sustainable Production Systems portfolio).
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology purchases its portfolio of climate change research from various providers (Crown research institutes, universities and private organisations), guided by the funding policies outlined in the previous section. Its funding also covers the archiving and part of the collection costs for systematic climate observations. Some additional government support for research comes through:
There is also direct funding of research in some climate change areas by core government departments to meet operational and policy development needs.
Systematic observations are part-funded through the Crown contract for public weather forecasts and warnings administered by the Ministry of Transport and awarded to MetService, which covers routine upper air and surface weather observations that are also used for climate research. Further observations for climate research are funded by FRST, and both weather and climate observations are incorporated in the National Climate Database, managed by NIWA under contract to FRST. Some support for observations in the Pacific is provided through the Ministry of Transport’s contract with MetService, and additional support is provided through NZAID.
Table 8.1 summarises the estimated government-funded annual investment in climate change-related research. A further $11.9 million is spent on systematic climate observations.
Investment (NZ$ million)
Notes: FRST = Foundation for Research, Science and Technology; MAF = Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry; PGGRC = Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium.
Domestically, the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry work in conjunction with science providers to disseminate research findings on climate change, mitigation options, and adaptation processes and methodologies to ensure New Zealanders:
New Zealand exchanges data and information with other countries in line with the policies of the World Meteorological Organization. Appropriate weather observations useful for climate modelling are disseminated in real time through standard World Meteorological Organization channels, and climate and greenhouse gas monitoring data is provided to appropriate world data centres.
New Zealand has identified particular opportunities for the dissemination of real-time climate data through the Pacific to provide up-to-date information on current climate conditions and seasonal outlooks to Pacific Island nations, and to help them deal with climate variability. This has led to the establishment of the Island Climate Update, discussed above in section 8.1, and NIWA also produces a similar monthly publication for New Zealand, Climate Update. Additional exchanges of information occur under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Global Climate Observing System (PI-GCOS) and the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research.
New Zealand has established a climate change partnership with the United States to enhance dialogue and practical cooperation on climate change issues. The partnership was launched on 25 October 2002. As examples of the scope of this partnership, the most recent projects (as of May 2009) covered:
A second bilateral climate change partnership, between Australia and New Zealand, covers a similar range of projects and exchanges.
New Zealand has initiated the establishment of a multilateral partnership, the Livestock Emissions and Abatement Research Network (LEARN), which brings together scientists to share information and expertise on greenhouse gas emissions from livestock (see also section 4.3.3). Currently (May 2009), 400 members in 48 nations have joined the LEARN partnership. In addition, New Zealand is a member of the International Energy Agency and the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, and has observer status at the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum.
New Zealand is an active member of the World Meteorological Organization and exchanges information and data through both the World Meteorological Organization and its subsidiary and associated bodies. Through membership of GCOS and its Pacific arm, PI-GCOS, and through the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, New Zealand works to lower barriers to, and further facilitate, such data exchanges.
This section looks at the highlights, innovations and significant efforts made in relation to climate change research in New Zealand. More details about the research projects funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology can be obtained from its searchable database of abstracts and project reports, using the search term “climate change”.107
Climate change research in New Zealand seeks to develop information and knowledge on a wide variety of issues, including:
Work continues on identifying and understanding the causes of variability and trends in atmospheric, oceanic, mountain glacier and sea-ice conditions in New Zealand, the southwest Pacific and Antarctica. This includes work on the influences of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation on New Zealand patterns of rainfall, temperature, wind and river flow; and work on the predictability of seasonal climate variability and separating out these effects from the long-term trends that may be due to anthropogenic forcing.
Increased emphasis is being given to studies of changes in the frequency of extremes such as frost and intense rainfall and their statistical significance. Trends in ocean circulation in the South Pacific and their relationship to atmospheric changes have been analysed. Research is in progress on sea ice in the Ross Sea area of Antarctica, and on the relationship between the extent of the ice and atmospheric circulation. Research effort is also being focused on the trends and impacts of climate on ocean ecosystems, in particular the impacts on fisheries.
Research is ongoing to measure, understand and predict sea-level rise. This work has been used in the guidance developed by the Ministry for the Environment to help with planning for coastal hazard and climate change. Complementary work is underway to investigate current and future swell, wave and storm surge conditions near New Zealand coasts.
New Zealand collaborates with other countries on a significant amount of palaeoclimate research. This includes analysis of Antarctic ice, glacier and sediment cores to provide insight into the changes that have occurred to the climate in the past, over a variety of time scales.
Aspects of this research target periods of relatively high atmospheric carbon dioxide and times of rapid or abrupt global warming, and produce archives that extend the comparatively short Southern Hemisphere instrumental records of climate back in time. The data generated is being used to provide crucial constraints for collaborating climate modellers in New Zealand and overseas by testing the veracity of existing climate models. For example, the data is currently being used by modellers to look at heat transport mechanisms in the ancient South Pacific during a time of super-greenhouse climate.
One project, ANZICE (Antarctica – New Zealand Interglacial Climate Extremes), seeks to understand the likely response of the New Zealand / Antarctic region to a warmer world. To achieve this, the project focuses on environmental changes that occurred during peak warm periods in the past when the atmosphere and surface ocean were up to 3°C warmer than now. This research aims to:
Of particular interest is the analogue and computer modelling that will draw on the above research results to develop models that help clarify our view of the future. Information from the ice and sediment core studies will be compiled to form observational models to help answer basic research questions such as “How did the Antarctic environment appear during the last Interglacial Period, 125,000 years ago, and what was the impact on the Southern Ocean and New Zealand?” Answers to such questions will help guide and verify the computer models to give a measure of confidence in their results.
For New Zealand scientists, the International Polar Year represents a unique opportunity to participate in a number of important Antarctic scientific collaborations. One of the projects in which New Zealand has taken a prominent leadership role is the ANDRILL project (ANtarctic geological DRILLing). The chief objective is to drill back in time to recover a history of palaeoenvironmental changes that will guide our understanding of how fast, how large and how frequent glacial and interglacial changes were in the Antarctic region. Future scenarios of global climate change require guidance from past history that will reveal the potential timing and frequency of future changes.108
Analysis of foraminifera (single-celled protists with shells) in shallow-water sediment cores from salt marshes has determined the 500-year local history of sea level at the first of four New Zealand localities. Results at Pounawea (South Otago) show there has been a rapid acceleration in sea-level rise (up to 2.8 millimetres per year) in the last 100 years, which is in agreement with the Port Chalmers tidal gauge records since 1924, and parallels the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. This is the first Southern Hemisphere use of foraminifera for this purpose, and it shows a similar pattern of sea-level rise to three Northern Hemisphere records.
Measurements and computer modelling are continuing to improve knowledge about the sources, sinks and transport of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This work includes participation in the international Total Carbon Column Observing Network, the World Meteorological Organization’s Global Atmospheric Watch, and the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change.
Observations are also made from container ships travelling regularly between New Zealand and Japan. These observations include the isotope ratios of methane and carbon monoxide, as well as condensation nuclei and aerosol concentrations. The results highlight the differences in methane concentrations across the hemispheric boundary, reflecting differences in sources.
Finally, research is underway on the implications of climate change for the recovery of stratospheric ozone concentrations.
The Carbon Workshop 2008: Global Cycle to Regional Budget was held in New Zealand in April 2008 as part of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. One particular session was on ocean processes and involved looking at our understanding of the ocean carbon uptake and marine biosequestration. The research reported there included work carried out under the Surface Ocean – Lower Atmosphere Study, an international research initiative comprising over 1500 scientists in 23 countries.109
The broader aim of the workshop was to bring together the broad range of carbon researchers from within New Zealand, along with overseas experts, to review our current understanding of the global carbon cycle and to look ahead at the research challenges associated with the need to mitigate fossil carbon emissions and develop policies for carbon constraint.
Work is also continuing on improved techniques for assessing the effects of ocean-sourced biogenic sulphur emissions on aerosol and cloud properties, which may affect the radiation balance over the Southern Ocean.
Research on the land–atmosphere exchange of carbon dioxide and the effects of land-use changes, land management and erosion continues to inform the national carbon monitoring systems for forest and scrub vegetation and for soil carbon. Research continues on carbon dioxide fluxes over scrubland, and on the validation by both flux-based and inventory methods of estimating the total exchange and net sequestration of carbon dioxide (and its spatial variability).
In the face of global environmental change and increasingly intensive land use, New Zealand needs to understand how landscapes respond to ever-changing global environmental drivers and human intervention. The MARGINS Source-to-Sink New Zealand programme is making significant progress towards developing a quantitative understanding of landscape response to environmental change. One of the key features of the research is the use of numerical landscape modelling, which is a capability the programme is helping to develop in New Zealand. This development is aided by links with an international United States-led modelling programme, which aims to produce free-to-use models accessible through the web. Preliminary assessment of currently available models suggests they are well suited for use in New Zealand’s tectonically dynamic landscapes.110
Regional climate scenarios for New Zealand through the 21st century, based on statistical downscaling from global climate models, have been extended to correspond to the full range of global temperature projections available from models used in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. This downscaled data has been mapped onto a 5-kilometre grid to produce estimates of temperature and rainfall for any location across the country. Future scenarios for soil moisture changes (expressed in terms of potential evapotranspiration deficit) were also developed to investigate possible changes in drought frequency.
A regional climate modelling capability has now been implemented based on the United Kingdom Unified Model. It has so far been used to simulate current climate and palaeoclimate conditions, as well as several future climate runs to complement scenarios developed by statistical downscaling. The projections based on both the downscaling and the regional climate modelling provide data that is used extensively in other research, such as that for engineering design, health and other biological impacts, and socio-economic modelling.
Information on the patterns and extremes of our future wind environment is important for issues such as understanding New Zealand’s wind energy resources, infrastructure design constraints, and the wind-throw impacts on New Zealand’s planted forests. Research is currently underway to provide estimates of the future wind environment, including changes to extremes, based on both the downscaled data and the regional climate modelling projections. Included in this research are efforts to understand how changes to the atmosphere will affect the strength, frequency and location of convective storms.
Research drawing on a range of IPCC scenarios and climate models has suggested that soils in the east and far north of New Zealand will experience more long, dry periods (droughts) over the coming century. Initial results are now also available on the implications of these same scenarios for future river flows, and further analysis and research on this topic is underway looking at issues such as the availability of water for irrigation.
Research and modelling have also been undertaken on possible increases in the frequency of heavy rainfall events and the potential implications for flooding in some locations. Initial results suggest that some areas are likely to see increases in extreme events beyond that expected from the higher moisture-holding capacity of warmer air.
Research is underway to provide estimates of the background wave and swell conditions expected over the 21st century. This work is using re-analysis data sets to provide boundary conditions for wave and swell models (WAM/Swan), and General Circulation Model data to provide estimates of these conditions into the future. This research will help to inform planning and engineering design on New Zealand coastal margins.
Potential changes in drought frequency over the coming century have been identified for a range of climate scenarios that are likely to affect dry-land farming in eastern areas of New Zealand. This work is being reviewed to take account of the newly updated downscaled data. The long-term FACE (Free Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment) experiment is studying a grazed pasture ecosystem under the carbon dioxide concentration expected in 2030. The facility has been improved to provide an increase in temperature as well as in carbon dioxide concentration. The New Zealand FACE facility was established in 1997 and is one of the few long-term research programmes globally situated on improved pastoral grassland.111
Research has looked into the likely changes in forest fire risk over New Zealand in coming decades as a consequence of climate change. This work is currently being updated to factor in the new climate projects. Research is also investigating the vulnerability of forests to future climate and biosecurity threats.
Ongoing research is looking at the impact of climate change on the occurrence and severity of vector-, water- and food-borne diseases. Research is also focusing on the changing needs of the health industry that may result from changes in disease prevalence, population changes and shifts, and socio-economic stressors.
The guidance documents on the projected impacts of climate change produced by the Ministry for the Environment are being used by planners and designers to inform the development of new infrastructure. Local authorities are also using the guidance documents to assess future and current climate risks to existing infrastructure. More information on adaptation work can be found in chapter 6.
Economic modelling work has identified impacts from climate variations on New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP) through changes in pastoral production. This work uses the projected impacts – particularly the impacts on the occurrence of droughts – to estimate the changes in production, both in average years and in drought years.
Research is also beginning to look at community vulnerability/resilience to the impacts of climate change. One aspect of this work is aimed at developing indicators of vulnerability. Similar work is underway looking at coastal communities, with a particular case study on a Māori coastal hapū.12
Recently announced was New Zealand’s first professorship in the life-cycle analysis and carbon footprint of New Zealand’s primary industries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is funding the establishment of a centre for life-cycle analysis at Massey University. The centre aims to study the environmental footprint of products across their entire life cycle – from the farm, orchard or forest, through to processing, transportation, sale, consumption and disposal by the consumer. The centre will also be responsible for training experts who can work with the primary sector to enhance their overseas reputations, improve their production processes and help further promote New Zealand as a world leader in agriculture, horticulture and forestry.113
Work is in progress to identify impacts on the energy sector from climate-induced variations in water inflows to hydro-electricity generation systems, and on energy demand for space-heating.
Integrated socio-economic/natural-science models are now being developed for use in policy design and analysis for land-use and climate-change issues. Initial studies with these models are exploring the likely influence of various possible policies on changes of land use into and out of “Kyoto” forests, including different levels of carbon pricing. A further economics research project has examined greenhouse gas emission paths in connection with different New Zealand economic development scenarios.
Much research into the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is focused on reducing emissions from agricultural production, reflecting the fact that it represents 48 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions profile. Significant efforts are also being made on the role of forestry in sequestering carbon.
Much of the industry funding on agricultural emissions reduction is channelled through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC), in which the Government matches the investment of the pastoral industry into research on the reduction of greenhouse gases from pastoral production. The PGGRC research programme aims to provide New Zealand livestock farmers with the knowledge and tools to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. The PGGRC is a commitment by the pastoral sector to address pastoral emissions while ensuring that our nation’s economic wealth is enhanced. (See also section 4.3.3.)
The announcement of the completion of the first rumen methanogen genomic sequence marks an important milestone for the PGGRC. Since its inception in 2002, the Consortium has had a programme developing a fundamental understanding of the organisms responsible for the production of methane from ruminant livestock. Although other methanogens have previously been sequenced, Methanobrevibacter ruminantium is the first from the rumen to have its genome or “parts list” identified. The Consortium will continue its programmes of work, which will use this knowledge for developing cost-effective mitigation solutions for livestock.
This research has two strands: identifying and developing ways to reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions and improving the inventory of New Zealand’s agricultural emissions. Improved methods for measuring methane emissions at the animal, herd and farm scale are relevant to both strands since they provide validation for emission reductions technologies and assist with inventory improvement. In addition, greenhouse gas emissions functions have been integrated into an ecosystem model (EcoMod) in a joint New Zealand–Australian project. The model is being used to evaluate mitigation options for agricultural emissions.114
A significant amount of research is undertaken through the PGGRC, but the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also funds research directly through the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action. A particular focus is the investigation of rumen microbial strategies to lower methane emissions. New information has been obtained on rumen factors that affect methanogen survival and that have potential to be used in methane-abatement strategies. Investigation of forage plants to affect methane formation in the rumen continues, as does research on the variation between individual animals in the levels of methane emitted.
The PGGRC is also undertaking research on management practices to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. This includes linking with an industry trial to evaluate intensive dairy farm systems, which involves treatments with nitrogen fertiliser, maize silage and winter management strategies. The inclusion of low protein forage (eg, maize) to reduce dietary nitrogen concentration, and winter management practices to reduce excreta to soil, can potentially mitigate environmental nitrogen emissions and increase efficiency.
Full details of the PGGRC’s work can be found at http://www.pggrc.co.nz/Research/ AnnualReports/tabid/69/Default.aspx, and research funded through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is set out at http://www.maf.govt.nz/ climatechange/slm/grants/research.
In addition to abatement strategies, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is funding research into improving the measurement and verification of agricultural emissions. This includes work to produce new models and methods to measure emissions (such as Overseer, discussed in section 4.3.3), as well as work to enhance and verify existing models.115
Research is being undertaken to improve inventory methods and models to estimate the carbon in each of the five land uses, land-use change and forestry carbon pools. The emphasis of this work is on planted forests and their soils. Research is also underway on improving methods of using historical remotely sensed information to develop land-use histories across New Zealand associated with regenerating native forest, the planting of forest species, patchy shrub cover in pastoral hill country, and other land-use information. Research is continuing on radar remote sensing from aircraft (and eventually satellite) for estimating woody biomass, and on scanning LIDAR (light interception detection and ranging) to estimate tree heights and forest health.
Research into barriers and opportunities for enhancing the area of forest sinks includes investigating indigenous reforestation as a land-use option to gain income from forest credits or to provide opportunities for businesses to exhibit “carbon neutrality”, and using the Kyoto Protocol as a mechanism to encourage more sustainable land use. Research results are being used to improve various indigenous forest biomass data sets and forest inventory methods. These include biomass data sets and functions to predict live tree biomass and coarse woody debris decay rates. To improve Kyoto forest inventories and projections, exotic live and dead tree biomass data sets are being prepared, as are functions to predict live tree and coarse woody debris biomass. Forest and soil carbon model validation studies are also underway.
The Low Carbon Energy Technologies Fund was established to support new low-carbon energy technologies. The aim is to scale up and demonstrate existing research on second-generation biofuels, other low-carbon liquid biofuels and low-carbon energy technologies such as solar, hydrogen and wind power. Projects that have been awarded funding so far include the development of a second-generation, low-carbon “petrol” fuel from industrial flue gas waste, which could be blended with normal petrol to reduce petrol use. Another example is research into a process for developing biofuel from algae.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has inaugurated professorial chairs at Massey University to study the production and use of biochar in New Zealand. Biochar is a stable form of carbon that has the potential to be incorporated into soil as a permanent carbon store. This would potentially create a major carbon sink that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through plant growth and stores it as inert carbon in soils. Biochar can also be used to make a bioenergy product that can be used to produce heating and generate electricity, and for other applications. (See also the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action in section 4.3.5.)
New Zealand scientists are investigating the potential of sites for the geo-sequestration of carbon dioxide. New Zealand also collaborates in an Australian cooperative research centre programme on carbon dioxide geo-sequestration.
Research and development work to reduce net greenhouse gas contributions from transport includes work on fleet best practice, end-of-life stewardship, second-generation biofuels, and the role of electric cars.
Although research on climate change impacts has been a high priority for New Zealand, research, development and dissemination of methods for implementing adaptation measures has also been a major focus.
In May 2007, scientists contracted to the Ministry for the Environment updated the guidance manual Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment, which provides guidance to local government on the expected impacts of climate change and describes a risk management framework for assessing the consequences and determining the appropriate responses. A similar manual has been developed specifically for the coastal margins: Climate Change and Coastal Hazards: A Guidance Manual for Local Government. These manuals are aimed primarily at engineers, although both have been condensed into summary versions providing a shorter overview aimed more at planners. (See also section 6.4.1.)
A feature of the coastal manual is the specific guidance on planning for sea-level rise. The guidance is aligned to the risk management approach and recognises the uncertainties in future projections of sea-level rise. The specific advice can be found at http://www.mfe.govt.nz/ publications/climate/preparing-for-coastal-change-guide-for-local-govt/html/page2.html.
Guidance is also being developed for flooding. This will be in two parts: one aimed at demonstrating how to incorporate climate change impacts into flow estimation, the other at how to incorporate climate change impacts into flood planning.
Significant effort continues to be made into developing and refining research-based information to help local government, the land-based primary sectors, the energy industry and other climate-sensitive sectors to adapt to both natural climate variability and future climate change. Funders of this work include the Ministry for the Environment, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, individual local authorities, and the insurance industry. The continuing substantial impacts of a number of extreme meteorological events have increased the demand for such information.
As part of developing adaptation guidance manuals for local government, researchers have:
Particular attention has been paid to the potential impacts of increases in high-intensity rainfall, which involves providing data that can be used for assessing stormwater drainage capabilities and methods for identifying areas at risk of inundation.
Research is also underway on the implications of climate variability and change (including interdecadal variability) for renewable energy (hydro, wind) generation, to help the energy industry plan for future changes. Research has continued on seasonal climate forecasting, and on methods for mapping climate and soils (and potential climate changes), and using the results to identify which crops are most appropriate to be grown in different regions.
A conference on adapting to climate change was held in May 2009, organised by the New Zealand Climate Change Centre. The conference, called Managing the Unavoidable, brought together a range of scientists and end users of guidance materials. The conference was supported by the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Royal Society of New Zealand and Meridian Energy.116
New Zealand maintains a systematic programme of atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial measurements of a range of essential climate variables. These measurements build on a historical archive of observations of climate-related parameters. Details of these observations are described and tabulated in New Zealand’s Report on the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), included in this report.
There are two main sources of New Zealand atmospheric observations relevant to climate change: the routine surface and upper air weather observations undertaken by MetService (New Zealand Meteorological Service Ltd), and dedicated climate observations and atmospheric constituent measurements undertaken by NIWA (the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research). NIWA is assisted by many voluntary observers, especially for rainfall monitoring. MetService forwards its weather observations to NIWA, where they are archived in the National Climate Database along with NIWA’s own measurements. Both MetService and NIWA have certified quality control standards: NIWA’s climate monitoring and archiving programme carries ISO9002 certification, and MetService has ISO9001 certification.
Funding for the core weather observations is by central government, through a Ministry of Transport contract with MetService. Some extra observations are funded by MetService out of commercial revenue. New Zealand recognises the National Climate Database as a database of national importance, and dedicated climate observations are funded by central government, through a contract to NIWA from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). Additional funding comes through revenue from commercial applications of the data. Atmospheric constituent measurements are also funded by FRST as part of specific research programmes.
Plans for the national climate network include continuing with gradual automation, and NIWA staff regularly review the network in light of user requirements, including those of MetService. Further planning for climate and atmospheric constituent measurements takes place as part of the FRST proposal and contracting process. The Reference Climate Network is a subset of the national climate network and was established in the late 1980s. Particular attention is paid to continuity of the network. It has recently been extended following a recommendation from the 10th session of the Commission for Climatology of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It now consists of 49 stations (including 19 back-up stations) located across mainland New Zealand, the outlying islands (Raoul, Chathams and Campbell) and the Ross Dependency (Scott Base).
Data in the National Climate Database is freely available to users through a web interface (http://cliflo.niwa.co.nz/). A subset of the observations catalogued in the National Climate Database is submitted to WMO archives. Appropriate weather observations are forwarded to other countries by MetService in real time through WMO networks. NIWA also puts National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) advanced TIROS operational vertical sounder (ATOVS) data on WMO networks via the Regional ATOVS Retransmission Service.117 New Zealand provides climate and greenhouse gas monitoring data to international data centres under programmes run by the WMO and the International Council of Scientific Unions. These programmes comprise the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS). Solar radiation data and routine weather radar data, while archived nationally, are not currently being submitted to international archives.
New Zealand has 10 stations providing data to international data centres as part of the Global Surface Network, and four stations that report as part of the Global Upper Air Network. The Global Surface Network stations at Kaitaia, Paraparaumu Aerodrome and Invercargill Aerodrome are operated manually by observers on contract to MetService. The other seven stations are automatic stations owned and operated by MetService. Detailed metadata for these stations is compiled, and site inspections are regularly carried out by NIWA staff and MetService engineers. Copies of inspection reports are available through NIWA’s Instrument Systems group in Christchurch. At present, the Global Surface Network station at Tara Hills does not fully meet GCOS standards because surface pressure is not measured at that site.
All four Global Upper Air Network stations measure air temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction. Currently, at Chatham and Raoul Islands, temperature and humidity are measured by radiosonde and wind is calculated using Global Positioning System (GPS) modules incorporated into the radiosondes (model Vaisala RS92 SGP). At Paraparaumu and Invercargill, temperature and humidity are measured by radiosonde (model Vaisala RS92K), but wind is calculated using a separate radar tracking system.
A total of 222 stations provide climate observations at 9 am each day to the National Climate Database. Of these, 148 are automatic stations, which also provide information at other times of the day. There are currently 668 stations providing daily rainfall data to the database. In addition, NIWA maintains satellite data archives for:
There are 117 stations measuring surface global solar radiation. At five of these sites (Kaitaia, Paraparaumu, Lauder, Invercargill and Scott Base) these are complemented by measurements of direct and diffuse radiation.
Although there are no ocean mooring network platforms measuring air temperature, wind speed and direction, and air pressure, these essential climate variables are measured at seven small isolated island or platform locations (Raoul Island, Campbell Island, Enderby Island, South West Cape, Stewart Island, Maui A platform and Mokohinau Island).
New Zealand has three stations providing atmospheric constituent data to international data centres as part of the Global Atmospheric Watch. Concentrations and isotope ratios in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, as well as aerosol chemistry of iron and sulphur, are monitored at the Baring Head clean air monitoring station. Some of these gases are also monitored at Lauder and at Arrival Heights, Antarctica. Twice-monthly frost point hygrometer flights are made from Lauder under contract from the NOAA GCOS office to measure water vapour profiles into the stratosphere. Vertical ozone profile measurements are made at Lauder using ozonesondes, ozone lidars and a microwave radiometer. Total column ozone measurements are made at Lauder and at Arrival Heights, Antarctica, using Dobson spectrophotometers.
New Zealand also uses ships of opportunity to collect air samples for analysing the principal greenhouse gases, and Hi Vol sampling of iron between Nelson (New Zealand) and Osaka (Japan). In addition, Microtops sun-photometer readings to measure aerosol optical depth and ozone are made when sky conditions allow; this data is available as part of the Aeronet Maritime Aerosol Network programme. Continuous condensation nuclei measurements are also made between Nelson and Osaka on each voyage.
Continuous in situ measurements of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide have recently been initiated at Lauder and are expected to become fully operational within the next year. Near infra-red Fourier transform spectroscopy measurements of column amounts of the same gases are also made at Lauder.
A number of actions have been initiated in response to the recommendations on atmospheric essential climate variables within the internationally agreed GCOS Implementation Plan; specifically:
New Zealand has five stations contributing to the Global Sea Level Observing System (GLOSS). Of these five GLOSS sites, those at Wellington, Auckland and Bluff are operated by port companies (or the regional authority on behalf of the port company); the site at Waitangi, Chatham Islands, is operated by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center; and the site at Scott Base, Antarctica, is operated by NIWA and Antarctica New Zealand.
New Zealand does not have a formal, nationally administered network of sea-level gauges. Instead, sea-level gauges are mostly operated independently by various agencies, with some national coordination of daily downloads of data, post-processing and archiving undertaken through voluntary partnerships with either Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) or NIWA. NIWA coordinates and archives a loose network of 22 coastal sea-level recorders, including the GLOSS site at Scott Base, Antarctica.118
There are sea-level recorders at 16 major ports operated by port companies or regional authorities, and a further 14 sea-level stations in major or minor ports and estuaries that are operated independently by port companies or local/regional authorities. Three stations are operated on the Chatham Islands: two by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (including a GLOSS site at Waitangi Harbour), and one by LINZ and the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre site at Owenga on the Chatham Islands will soon (2009) be decommissioned and only the adjacent LINZ/GNS tsunami gauge will operate there. LINZ also operates a site at Cape Roberts, Antarctica.
In addition, long-term tide gauge records (since about 1900) are held by LINZ and the University of Otago (School of Surveying) for the four main ports of Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton (Christchurch) and Dunedin, along with shorter records from several other ports and open-coast gauges. The open-coast gauges in the NIWA network provide a valuable data set of ocean tides, storm surges and long waves. The earliest site commenced in 1971, with a major expansion of sites from 1994 to 1998.
Sea-surface temperature is measured at nine coastal stations. Since the mid-1980s, MetService has maintained a network of free-drifting buoys in the Tasman Sea, and since 2002 these have been a combined meteorological/oceanographic drifting buoy, SVPB type. The SVPB buoys measure sea-surface temperature and sea-level pressure, and ocean current is derived from their drift. All buoys report via satellite using Argos transmitters. MetService also works collaboratively with the Global Drifter Centre in Miami to deploy buoys under the Southern Ocean Buoy Programme in the Pacific Ocean south of 40oS. These buoys are also of the SVPB type, and between 20 and 40 buoys are deployed annually during the southern summer months.
Ocean waves are routinely monitored around the New Zealand coast at five sites operated by NIWA and/or regional councils, and at a further six sites operated by ports. Remote coastal video cameras have been installed for long-term monitoring of beach conditions and erosion at seven sites.119
Under MetService’s Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) scheme, New Zealand seeks to upgrade or recruit ships to make climate-quality observations under the VOSClim (VOS Climate Project). Extensive metadata is collected for each VOSClim ship, including instrument type, location and exposure. The real-time observations are monitored by the UK Real Time Monitoring Centre, and the observations, the metadata, the co-located model data and the delayed mode (IMMT) data are all supplied to the US Data Assembly Centre for archiving for future research and climate applications.
NIWA has annually contributed and deployed two profiling floats under the Argo programme. Of the total 16 Argo floats deployed, nine are still active (for further information see http://sio-argo.ucsd.edu/weqpac_web.html). The data from the New Zealand floats is administered by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is available from the Argo Global Data Assembly Centers. NIWA intends to continue to purchase and deploy Argo floats at the rate of two per year. NIWA is also deploying buoys in the Southern Hemisphere from the R/V (research vessel) Kaharoa in an ongoing collaboration with the University of Washington and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. These voyages, dating back to 2004, have deployed around 550 floats, primarily in the South Pacific but also in the eastern tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans. In addition, some deployments in the Southern Ocean have been made from R/V Tangaroa.
New Zealand maintains two global reference mooring network sites (Ocean SITES) in deep waters (approximately 3000 metres) to the east of the country. These provide long-term time-series biophysical data (currents, temperature, salinity, fluorometry, particle flux) in subtropical and subantarctic waters on either side of the subtropical front north and south of Chatham Rise. Measurements have now been in progress for nine years and have included a repeated, across-front transect measuring currents, nutrients, fluorometry and, more recently, bio-optics. A third site, to the northeast of New Zealand, which is not part of the global reference mooring network, provided current and temperature data in the subtropical inflow region of the East Auckland Current to the northeast of New Zealand and was in place for 6.5 years (1998–2005).
Time-series data of currents, temperature, light and fluorometry have also been collected at a shallow mooring site (approximately 40 metres) in the Firth of Thames, Hauraki Gulf, since 1998. Meteorological and water column observations (wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, air and sea temperature, salinity, turbidity, waves, currents) have been made since 2007 at a site approximately 30 metres deep located in the centre of Golden Bay, at the northern tip of the South Island. A new mooring deployment close to the Firth of Thames site (CSMART) was initiated in early 2009 to measure meteorological and water column parameters, including bio-optics.
Although New Zealand does not formally participate in providing carbon inventory survey line data to the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group, measurements of pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2), pH, alkalinity and supporting data are routinely measured on cruises out of Dunedin as part of the Munida time-series programme. These surface measurements have been made every two months for the last 10 years, in accordance with the GCOS climate monitoring principles. The ocean carbon data will be submitted to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre – Ocean CO2.
There are approximately 500 stream-flow gauges in operation around New Zealand, and about 300 groundwater monitoring sites, operated by NIWA and by regional and district councils. The NIWA stream-flow monitoring stations and a river water quality network of over 70 river locations, and their databases, are known as the Water Resources Archive.
End-of-summer snowline elevations and photographic images of 50 glaciers from special aircraft flights have been available annually since 1979, and the terminus positions of key glaciers in the Southern Alps are available from 1800 to the present. The New Zealand snow cover network is currently being expanded. There are existing snow-monitoring sites (operated for commercial clients) at Rose Ridge and Panorama Ridge, and existing climate sites at Chateau Tongariro on Mt Ruapehu, Arthur’s Pass Village and Mount Cook Village, which have been upgraded to observe snow. New climate and snow sites have been established within Nelson Lakes National Park, the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland National Park, Albert Burn, the Ivory Glacier and at Mt Potts. Future additional sites are planned for Mueller, Rolleston, Lake Heron, Brewster Glacier and Ruapehu ridge. Although data from these sites is archived in the National Climate Database, it is not currently being submitted to international data archives.
New Zealand’s Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) is being implemented to meet New Zealand’s reporting requirements under the Kyoto Protocol. It includes a soil carbon monitoring system and the collection of native forest, shrubland, and planted forest measurements from permanent plots. Carbon stock changes are derived from these time-sequence measurements. As part of developing LUCAS, the national Land Cover Database has been updated using SPOT satellite images for the period 1990–2008.
The National Vegetation Survey database maintained by Landcare Research holds records from approximately 45,000 vegetation survey plots around New Zealand, including 12,000 permanent plots. Landcare Research also maintains five New Zealand long-term ecological research and monitoring sites, and also monitors the presence or range of self-advective fungal and insect species. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry maintains a planted forest cover database, and keeps records of carbon absorbed in new planting and lost through logging, fires and vegetation clearance.
A more comprehensive lake-monitoring network is being developed. Monitoring of Lake Taupo has resumed in collaboration with Ngati Tuwharetoa120 and Environment Waikato,121 and the data will be submitted to the GLEON database.122 Measurements at Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti are also being submitted to the GLEON database. Buoys have also been installed, or are about to be installed, in Lakes Tarawera, Tutira, Ngaroto and Waikaremoana.
Although there are no permafrost measurement sites in New Zealand, New Zealand is supporting measurements in Antarctica by the US Department of Agriculture and the University of Insubria (Italy). Seven soil climate-monitoring stations that monitor temperature to about 1.2 metres’ depth are operated in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and Ross sea coast by Landcare Research in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture (data is available at http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/scan/Antarctica/antarctica.html). Continuous monitoring data goes back as far as 1999. Two permafrost boreholes, with continuous temperature monitoring to 29.5 metres’ depth, have now provided one full year of data. It is intended that the data from the permafrost boreholes will be made available to the GTN-p database. A study is underway to estimate New Zealand’s permafrost in the Mt Cook area.
MetService, under a New Zealand government contract, provides general advice and technical assistance to the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Niue to ensure the continuity and integrity of climate data gathered in these countries as part of the Pacific Island GCOS programme. MetService, under a joint New Zealand–US GCOS Technical Support Programme, also provides general assistance and routine in-country technical preventive and emergency maintenance support to Global Upper Air Network stations in the Solomon Islands (Honiara), Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby), Vanuatu (Bauerfield) and Fiji (Nadi). The Technical Support Programme is supported under the New Zealand–US climate change partnership.
MetService, under a joint New Zealand–Met Office UK Pacific Trust Fund partnership, also provides technical assistance for the management and operation of the Global Upper Air Network stations in Tuvalu (Funafuti) and Kiribati (Tarawa). Targeted in-country technical training and observing practices are routinely carried out. MetService provides facilities for the global telecommunications systems (GTS) by maintaining a regional telecommunication hub on the GTS in Wellington for the purpose of relaying observations to and from Australia and the South Pacific Islands’ national meteorological centres, and relaying forecasts, analyses and other products to and from Australia and New Zealand to Pacific Islands national meteorological centres. MetService also hosts the Pacific regional RAdio-InterNET (RANET) hub, serving as a back-up telecommunications system to the GTS.
106 Ministry for the Environment. 2006. Fourth National Communication. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment.
112 Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. A hapū is one of the collective Māori groupings and will usually consist of a number of related whānau (extended families).
120 Ngati Tuwharetoa is an iwi whose tribal area covers a part of the central North Island, including Lake Taupo. An iwi is one of the larger collective Māori groupings and is sometimes described as a tribe. Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.
121 Environment Waikato is the regional council for the Waikato region in the North Island of New Zealand.