New Zealand: Satellite sees worst droughts in decades

Degree of drought in New Zealand seen from space.
MODIS image showing the degree of drought affecting New Zealand on 10 April 2013.
Credits: NASA

Much of New Zealand had reached drought status when in mid-April 2013 it finally stated to rain. By early April, climate and weather experts had started calling it the worst drought on North Island in 70 years. The area around Wellington, for instance, saw no rainfall at all between February 13 and March 17.

NASA's Terra satellite with its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured an image from space making the drought's impact visible. By comparing an image from 10 April 2013 with an archived image taken more than four years ago on 3 April 2009, the grassland used by farmers as pastureland has visibly turned browner. The light green areas, where changes are most noticeable, are mainly pastoral landscapes populated by sheep, cattle, and deer farmers. The darker areas without significant changes in greenness are forests.