Climate change in Canterbury

Climate change is already having visible effects in the Canterbury region, and these will continue to become more apparent over time. Temperatures are warming and weather patterns are shifting, and these changes will have both positive and negative effects for different activities across the region. It is important that we understand the predicted impacts of climate change, so we can factor this into our planning and the work that we do.

What we already knowChristchurch Estuary

It is internationally accepted that rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions are the main reason for recent global climate change, and that human activities are responsible.

Increasing greenhouse gases are a bit like wrapping the earth in a blanket and the gases remain in the atmosphere for decades. How much and how fast Canterbury's climate changes depends on the thickness of that blanket, or what climate scientists call greenhouse gas concentrations.

Some simple examples of what science tells us about the big picture:

  • The earth has warmed by about 1°C since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s.
  • Global sea levels have risen by about 1.7 mm per year over the last century, but at almost twice that rate since the early 1990s.

Rainy dayAnd, closer to home:

  • In New Zealand, average temperatures have risen by about 1°C in 100 years.
  • The South Island's south and west are seeing more rain, and the northeast less rain.
  • Heavy rainfall events have become more intense because higher temperatures allow the atmosphere to carry more moisture.
  • Cold extremes have become rarer and hot extremes more common.

Continual learning

Our understanding of the changing climate and the consequences will continue to evolve. Environment Canterbury in 2020 commissioned research from NIWA about what might happen in our region between now and 2100.

Access the full report, and read about the climate change projections for Canterbury.