A storm is coming

Written By: - Date published: 11:04 am, February 12th, 2018 - 65 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, climate change, Environment, global warming, supercity - Tags:

The Metvuw site currently has the remains of a tropical storm hitting us in about 7 days’ time.

This is the kind of pattern of summer we have grown used to as we become slightly more tropical; New Zealand is often now part of Tonga and Fiji’s rolling storm season.

Nor have we had the kind of concentrated and regular flooding that forced the 300-person town of Kelso to be abandoned in 1980. The entire population was resettled.

Still, it gives one pause, when one reflects on how often Auckland’s Tamaki Drive is going under.

Last week my boss came to work pretty dishevelled when he drove part way past Mission Bay, was stopped due to the road being blocked with the tide, drove back home, pulled on his riding gear and cycled in through it. He was reasonably wet when he finally turned up late into the morning.

Auckland Transport intend to raise bits of Tamaki Drive to assist.

It reminds me of 23 January 2011 when we had a King Tide in the Waitemata Harbour. We also had a storm low hit. Every hectopascal below average air pressure can raise the sea level by a centimetre, and as the 2011 low bore down on Auckland, it shunted ahead of it a tide half a metre higher than predicted.

Around noon, a 4.13-metre storm tide washed over parts of downtown, some eastern suburbs, and Herald Island off Whenuapai. Then it shut down the outside lanes of the north-western motorway. NZTA has now rebuilt the entire northwestern SH16 causeway a little higher since then.

But from the 2011 flood you have to go back to March 1936 for a higher storm tide – 3.99 metres. Auckland sea levels have risen 17 centimetres since 1900.

For years, Auckland City Council had a policy of not requiring sewerage and stormwater to go down separate pipes. So for the last decade every time there’s a storm surge and the flood waters back up, everything just spills onto the beaches. I honestly can’t recall when Auckland Council took a leadership position on anything to do with the environment, let alone climate change as a whole. You can’t swim in a lot of beaches for weeks after any decent rain now.

Now Auckland Council are about to put in further investment into the Waitemata waterfront through the Americas Cup process. For yachting.

By 2050 – just over 30 years away – Auckland can expect to suffer 2011 flooding perhaps yearly. Most New Zealand coastal towns and cities will fare the same. Nobody has dared guess what that means for property values, but either the market or the insurance industry will be the first to tell us. It’s going to be one of the most startling transformations that New Zealand has ever seen (albeit one of many).

In the very short term, watch the tracking of this storm over the next six days. Check your insurance policies. Stock up on bottled water, Dettol, mops, great gumboots, and lots of batteries for the radio. Whether you need it this time or next time, it’s coming.

65 comments on “A storm is coming”

  1. Andre 1

    We always talk about climate in terms of money . This is why the 6 great extinction will happen . We lack the imagination .

    • Andre 1.1

      Hi Andre. I’ve been commenting semi-frequently using this handle. While I totally agree with what you’ve said today, now and then I’ll come out with something you might not want to be associated with. Do you want to change your handle, should I change mine, or should we just tag team it and enjoy the occasional confusion?

      • weka 1.1.1

        I think you should keep yours, because that’s what most people here are going to know when they see the name, and it goes with a whole set of politics 🙂 I’ll drop a moderator note in in the most recent comment below.

      • you could both set up with Gravatar and have custom icons. You’d be amazed at how much more people recognise a picture rather than a name.

  2. For years, Auckland City Council had a policy of not requiring sewerage and stormwater to go down separate pipes.

    Which is, of course, the result of everyone complaining that there rates are too high.

    When we demand that the council be cheap then we don’t get to complain when that cheapness comes back to bite us on the arse.

    • Stunned Mullet 2.1

      Not completely correct – people complain that their rates are being spent on wasteful bullshit rather than worthwhile projects.

    • bwaghorn 2.2

      It.s not a lack of rates causing the water pollution in Auckland ,it’s the council is stocking to many people to the hectare. Government needs to put in to law a rapid reduction of stocking rates

      • weka 2.2.1

        Heh, I might use that.

      • Actually, it’s from not stocking the people high enough. High density population costs less and does less environmental damage. Still, the infrastructure does need to be in place.

        It’s not the same as cows because cows simply don’t think about where they’re shitting.

        • bwaghorn

          i would bet dollars to donuts most city dwellers don’t think about where there shit goes as soon as they flush , any way i was just having a poke as the silence from the water ranters is deafining around here when its inside the city boundary , big fines for councils polluting would cost rate payers and we all know even the green pollies would be to gutless to push for that ,

    • Herodotus 2.3

      I agree with your sentiments in part.
      But would like to add that we have an infrastructure liability. Infrastructure that is beyond its estimate life span, and the prohibitive costs to both: construct new infrastructure as our pop. increases and to replace obsolete or out dated.
      I note you will find much of the obsolete stormwater and sewage is in the cbd or “privileged” areas (no mention of user pays to remedy these areas). Green field developments seperate these 2, and for stormwater ponds are constructed to filter out contaminates and silts.

    • Liberal Realist 2.4

      Which is, of course, the result of everyone complaining that there rates are too high.

      Nothing wrong with demanding efficiency and value for money from local government.

      Sure there’ll be plenty of harpering cheapskates wanting it all and wanting to pay nothing for it (e.g. avg RWNJ property investor), however local government isn’t known for focusing on core services it should be providing (e.g. climate change mitigation and appropriate sewerage infrastructure). Auckland CC clearly doesn’t have it’s priorities in order.

      Here in Wellington WCC spends obscene amounts of money on things like commercial property, statues, and plenty of other non-core ‘services’ while not fixing things like stormwater drainage, or improving cycling infrastructure where it really matters. Dealing with WCC for anything beyond a simple clear cut building consent is worse than pulling teeth solo with a pair of pliers and no anesthetic.

      When we demand that the council be cheap then we don’t get to complain when that cheapness comes back to bite us on the arse.

      There shouldn’t be a need to demand anything. If Auckland CC can’t fix the problem with funds available to them, then they should front up with full disclosure as to why.

      • Nothing wrong with demanding efficiency and value for money from local government.

        There’s a difference between demanding efficiency and demanding that rates and taxes go down no matter what.

        however local government isn’t known for focusing on core services it should be providing (e.g. climate change mitigation and appropriate sewerage infrastructure).

        Ah, the ACToid claim of ‘core services’. A council or government doesn’t provide ‘core services’. It has a purpose of ensuring that the people who live there live at a reasonable living standard and that the resources within their borders are well husbanded.

        Restricting a government to ‘core services’ actively prevents them from achieving that purpose.

        If Auckland CC can’t fix the problem with funds available to them, then they should front up with full disclosure as to why.

        Yes but would you believe them?

        Because, due to your use of ACToid memes, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t.

  3. weka 3

    Good post.

    As bad as Auckland’s problems are going to be from sea level rise, I still maintain that the motivator here needs to be what happens if we get catastrophic climate change? Having to move much of such a large city is a huge issue, but it pales when compared to not having an environment conducive to growing food.

    As Bill has been pointing out, the mainstream predictions (govt, NIWA etc) are based on IPPC models that include Carbon Capture and Storage tech that doesn’t exist yet and probably won’t work at scale. And we’re not even meeting the targets for those models.

    So yes, do what we need to to get through the next wave of emergencies, but we still have to act on the bigger picture now. That means placing sustainability (in its true sense) as our priority over maintaining our current lifestyles.

    • Ad 3.1

      Most people react when there’s something really concrete, urgent, and consistently publicised. Climate change is simply too diffuse and long-term for most people to deal with.

      So a set of flood events just one or two years apart, in the same area, that’s about the timeline most people can figure for their own lives. I’m sure it’s not enough; it’s just human.

      • weka 3.1.1

        I agree, it’s a very difficult one for the human mind to get to grips with. I think our best bet is if we have more and worse events that push people into realising it’s here now.

        Once a certain percentage of the population accepts that its happening now and not to a later generation, the notion of how bad it is is easier to contemplate. It’s not so distant anymore. Kind of like the Overton Window I guess, the norm of understanding and acceptance in the middle moves (or the middle moves to accept that understanding). That’s also a natural human process I think.

        Also having pathways for people to act. Nothing subverts action like feelings of powerlessness.

    • Molly 3.2

      Living in market garden country here, and the current onion crop is suffering from the intermittent heavy rain just as the onions were getting to the stage of dryness that allowed bagging.

      The storm a couple of weeks ago hit particularly hard, and water blew out the banks and we had a river of onions and water cross the road and flow down our driveway.

      Those onions are still in the field and have been drenched and partly dried at least five times since then. It is a hundred acre plot, and still doesn’t look like the farmworkers will be visiting any time soon. I spoke to the grower, and he mentioned that the weather had recently reduced their usual 300 crate harvest of spinach, to 6 crates. A substantial loss, but at least spinach is a fairly fast crop, those onions have been in the field for a few months now.

      And other growers seems to be having the same issues locally.

      • weka 3.2.1

        Interesting. So that’s a flood that affects the crop in that moment but also the overall weather pattern for this year?

        What scares me about that is that it will be framed in terms of economic loss. I want to know what’s going to happen when this is happening a lot of the time. Humans are very resilient and adaptable, but we need to be looking at this now (plus the whole prevention of runaway CC thing).

  4. Antoine 4

    > By 2050 – just over 30 years away – Auckland can expect to suffer 2011 flooding perhaps yearly

    You’re making that up. You don’t really know what the weather is going to be like in 2050.

    I agree it may be rather different from what it is now, but I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I know _how_ it will be different.


    • DoublePlusGood 4.1

      Except that we have a very good idea of what the mean sea level will be in 2050, and we can just model what happens to our average bad weather now if you raise the sea level by x centimetres. And it means constant flooding along the lines of 2011.

    • weka 4.2

      I think it’s pretty clear from Ad’s phrasing that it’s speculative (‘expect’, ‘perhaps’). Looks like an educated guess to me. I’d be interested in what he based that on too, but I suspect your argument is more along the neo-denialist line.

      • Antoine 4.2.1

        I worry that people will get the idea that they know what the weather is going to be (based on a couple of events), plan for that set of conditions and ignore other possible contingencies.


        • weka

          Ad wasn’t predicting weather, he was predicting a change in climate that would lead to more flooding. Flooding that is a result of multiple factors, some of which he covered in the post.

          I think you want to argue about how to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. There’s enough evidence that Auckland is going to face major infrastructure issues (along with many other low lying towns/cities in NZ). If you believe that we are going through a glitch, and that we will revert back to weather that won’t interact with rising sea levels and other phenomena to cause flooding, then by all means make see if you can make that case.

          • Ad

            I try not to extract this stuff out of my nether regions.

            Citations below. More if required.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I worry that you’re trying to distract from reality because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

    • Ad 4.3

      This was the report on forecast sea level rise for New Zealand, presented to Parliament in 2015:


      Worth checking all the footnotes and maps inside it.

      This was the Parliamentary Select Committee’s response:


      There is also a 350 page report on climate change effects commissioned by Auckland Transport, Auckland Council, Panuku, and INWA, but rather than bore you with the details, here’s the headline warnings on floods:

      “Climate change: Auckland to get hotter with upped flooding, superstorm and drought risks”


      I don’t presume to be an expert in any of this stuff – so I trust the colelctive scientific and professional opinion, which is pretty consistent.

    • http://www.mfe.govt.nz/climate-change/how-climate-change-affects-nz/how-might-climate-change-affect-my-region/auckland

      What could this mean for Auckland?

      Heavy rain – The capacity of stormwater systems may be exceeded more frequently due to heavy rainfall events which could lead to surface flooding. River flooding and hill country erosion events may also become more frequent.

      Coastal hazards – Coastal roads and infrastructure may face increased risk from coastal erosion and inundation, increased storminess and sea-level rise.

      Drought – By 2090, the time spent in drought ranges from minimal change through to more than double, depending on the climate model and emissions scenario considered. More frequent droughts are likely to lead to water shortages, increased demand for irrigation and increased risk of wild fires. The frequency and intensity of El Niño events, which are associated with periods of drought in Auckland, may increase. Increased drought frequency coupled with windier conditions may lead to an increase in the occurrence of fires.

      Agriculture – Warmer temperatures, a longer growing season and frosts becoming rare could provide opportunities to grow new, sub-tropical crops and farmers might benefit from faster growth of pasture and better crop-growing conditions. However, these benefits may be limited by negative effects of climate change such as water supply issues, prolonged drought, increased flood risk, or greater frequency and intensity of storms.

      Biosecurity – Climate change could result in an increased incidence of invasive pests, affecting both pasture and horticultural crops. Several existing pest species could become more serious pests with even a slight increase in temperature.

      Disease – There may be an increase in the occurrence of summer water-borne and food-borne diseases such as Salmonella. There could also be an increased risk from some vector-borne diseases such as Dengue Fever and Ross River Virus.

      My bold.

      • Antoine 4.4.1

        Now that is some actual information, it acknowledges uncertainty and it covers a range of climate issues not just storms.

        (Of course it could still all prove to be wrong)


        • Draco T Bastard

          Of course it could still all prove to be wrong

          That would be unlikely. What the scientists that measure the changes in the climate are seeing now is that previous projections were low so, if anything, we could probably expect these projections to be low as well.

  5. Andre2 5

    The science is in and the minutiae can be argued till the cows are culled …But .
    IPCC carbon budget that were compiled used presumptions that are not based on correct data . It is far worse than IPCC AR5 political statements suggest . 15 years is left to fuck the future of fix the future . We must choose .We must act . We must get off the friggin couch .
    ‘Delivering on 2 degrees’ Keynote Prof Kevin Anderson – Climate change: … https://youtu.be/9gJ78vDU17Y via @YouTube

    [Andre, there is a long term commenter here called Andre. Can you please change your user name, to avoid confusion? I’ve changed your name in the meantime, but feel free to choose something else, thanks – weka]

    • weka 5.1

      Someone needs to put in place some PR support for Anderson. We need short videos explaining the issue, lots of easy to understand graphics, stuff that can be tweeted and put out on FB. Hour long youtube videos are simply not going to be watched by enough people.

      • Pat 5.1.1

        Perhaps…but an hour to cover the ground he does is minimal…and I dont get the feeling hes a “marketing’ kind of guy….just the facts maam

        • weka

          oh I’m not suggesting he stops doing the in depth stuff, that’s incredibly important too. I’m saying *someone else* should pick up his work and put it out there in the world in ways that more people can access. We have no time for such important information to be this inaccessible.

          The Story of Stuff people could probably do something very good with it (they may already have, I’ll go have a look).

    • weka 5.2

      Moderator note above for you to respond to, thanks.

    • Bill 5.3

      The carbon budgets are based on understandings between CO2 concentrations and a range of temperatures that could result from those concentrations. So, as far as I understand that, it’s not really based on data so much as on theoretical understanding tempered by real world variables that aren’t fully understood (such as cloud cover etc)

      Or am I missing something?

      • Andre Hock 5.3.1

        The only way to understand is to invest the time in understanding . Latest report (33 authors) mandated ‘National climate assessment ‘(part 1) report by US Govt Is in the AGU December conference in Vegas. It is accessible on their youtube It confirms past suppositions and reinforces Prof Andersons statements on budgets . Passing 2 C is not conducive with a functioning civilization as we know it today. It will change how all humans will interact and all that entails . https://youtu.be/fDJP5RgKkj4 and the summary Doc NCEA4 https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/executive-summary/

        • Bill

          I’m questioning your statement about “incorrect data”. What incorrect data? The uncertainty in temperature range for given CO2 concentration is down to acknowledging unknowns that determine climate sensitivity. There is no “incorrect data” per se.

  6. RedLogix 6

    The forecast storm track is well visualised here; push forward to next Monday/Tuesday:


    Look how far south this bugger could get with steady 100km/hr winds! Gusts will be 50% higher.

    Otherwise another very good post Ad. Not too many people understand that with all of it’s at risk infrastructure Local Govt will be the first place climate change will hit with nasty expensive impact.

    • Ad 6.1

      Sexy site cheers Redlogix.
      Leaves metvuw graphics for dead with its dataset integration.
      Piece of awesome for my inner weather nerd.

    • Bill 6.2

      That looks like, erm…”fun days” if it turns out to be an accurate prediction.

      • Anne 6.2.1

        When a cyclone reaches sub-tropical waters they tend to drift towards lower isobaric pressure. So, the weather system to watch will be the ridge of high pressure which is expected to move onto the country mid-week. If it hangs around long enough to include most of the week-end then we should miss the worst of the cyclone and it will toddle past well to the west of NZ without causing too much damage. On the other hand if the high drifts relatively quickly eastward (as apparently depicted on most of the models) then that will allow the bastard to track over the top of us.

        Oh yes, I am (as always) a little ray of sunshine. 🙂

  7. fender 7

    ” Most New Zealand coastal towns and cities will fare the same. Nobody has dared guess what that means for property values, but either the market or the insurance industry will be the first to tell us.”

    The Kapiti Coast District Council tried to warn of the future consequences for beachfront properties on LIM reports and got taken to court by upset residents for their troubles.

    • Ad 7.1

      Plenty of District Councils have tried.

      Which is why I think people will really “hear it” first from their insurance premiums and real estate agents.

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        There are a number of locations in NZ where I can confirm this is happening already, and it will only get worse as awareness slowly dawns on more and more people.

  8. cleangreen 8

    Well after the storm we will know then what to do wont we?

    Get a boat?
    Get a raft?
    Get a house high above the flood plane?
    Get out of Auckland?
    Get away from the coast?
    Get a helicopter?.
    Join me up in the mountains, I am 1600 ft above sea level and I already have a dingy.

  9. timeforacupoftea 9

    Wet feet again, nothing new here.

  10. Nick K 10

    Storms are very common in a La Niña weather pattern. It has nothing to do with the climate.

    • ropata 10.1

      Storms and La Nina has nothing to do with the climate? OK then…

      • Nick K 10.1.1

        The weather and the climate are not the same.

        This is weather.

        • Ad

          A storm is coming

        • RedLogix

          Weather is the high frequency component of climate. Weather is what we experience on a daily basis, while climate changes on a scale of decades and is far too slow for us humans to directly perceive it changing. In this sense weather and climate are indeed different things.

          But climate is low frequency mean of weather. All the important impacts on a large scale, such as the ice caps, oceanic currents, the range of species, sea temperatures, and so on respond to this long term cumulative all weather events, and it’s these indirect changes we are very definitely measuring. In this sense they are exactly the same thing.

          However which way us humans want to play with words, the physics remain the same. Trying to make an argument by pivoting on a selective semantic quibble will cut no mustard here.

  11. Ad 11

    Still on track to hit New Zealand late Tuesday and then Wednesday.

  12. Ad 12

    The highest risks to the New Zealand economy for 2018, according to the World Economic Forum, are out.

    Put together in partnership with the Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC) Risk Center, the research polls 1000 senior business leaders from the World Economic Forum’s global network.

    The results showed the top five global risks (by likelihood) were perceived to be:

    – extreme weather,
    – natural disaster,
    – cyberattacks,
    – data theft and
    – failure to adapt to climate change.


    A storm is coming.

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