New Zealand is experiencing temperature extremes four to five times more often than expected, according to NIWA.
Researchers analysed 70 years worth of weather data across the country to see how frequently extreme events, such as record-breaking heatwaves, were occurring.
The study – published in Weather and Climate, New Zealand – found that they are increasing at a much faster rate than the mean average temperature, NIWA said in a media release.
On average, the country saw four to five times more extreme high temperatures in the past decade than would be expected in a climate with no long-term warming.
Even when climate change is taken into consideration, New Zealand still experienced two to three times more extreme high temperatures than expected.
Scientists also found that the country is experiencing dry conditions twice as frequently than expected on the east coast.
The study’s lead author, NIWA climate database scientist Raghav Srinivasan, says the research backs up anecdotal evidence of hotter, drier temperatures in recent years.
“We instinctively know that we’re experiencing more hot, dry days and record-breaking weather events, especially as they’re often reported in the news,” Srinivasan said.
He said the researchers’ findings – along with NIWA’s monthly climate summaries over the past decade reporting “record-setting high temperature extremes” – allows the research institute to “say much more confidently that climate change is no longer a thing of the future”.
“It is happening to us now. The extreme events that we were once warned about are playing out across the globe, with droughts, storms and forest fires happening a lot more often than even just a couple of decades ago.”
Srinivasan added that global land and ocean temperature records spanning 1880 to 2020 has found the 10 warmest years “have occurred since 2005”.