Forecasting weather and climate extremes

Kaumatua is being interviewed by video on the marae

Over the centuries, Māori have developed extensive  knowledge about local weather and climate conditions.  These learnings have formed the bases of traditional and modern practices of agriculture, fishing, medicine, education and kaitiakitanga (guardianship).

Our project has worked closely with Ngāi Tahu knowledge holders to identify and revitalise the use of environmental indicators to forecast weather and climate extremes. We conducted 40 interviews with a diverse range of Ngāi Tahu elders and cultural practitioners, gaining unique insights into how Ngāi Tahu used and continue to use these indicators to forecast, monitor and plan for activities that are sensitive to changes in weather and climate.

One example of a well-known Ōtautahi weather indicator is Te Māuru, or the Nor’west Arch. Initially, a mass of billowing, dark clouds arch over Kā Tiritiri-o-te-moana (the Southern Alps). When seen, local Māori know that the dry nor’wester will start to blow. But when blue sky is seen above and below the arching clouds, it’s known as Te Māuru. A southerly is expected, and its strength depends on the height of the arch. The higher Te Māuru rises, the stronger the southerly the next day. It’s more than likely that snow will fall on the Southern Alps. This special indicator has been encapsulated within a whakataukī, “Ka taki mai Te Māuru, ka hara mai te toka” (When the nor’wester howls, the southerly advances).


Our resources

This project makes Māori forecasting knowledge available through video vignettes and new educational resources to promote stronger and closer relationships between people and their local environment. By creating and sharing these resources, we hope to help make the most of all available expertise to anticipate and manage the risks from weather and climate extremes. 



Videos produced as part of the Vision Mātauranga - Forecasting weather and climate extremes project. 

These videos reflect three themes: Kā Tohu Āhuaraki (climate indicators), Kā Tohu Huarere (weather indicators), and Kā Kiteka Hurihuri (observations of change). You can view the collected videos for each of these themes at our Deep South Challlenge YouTube channel below:



We've co-created (and updated) two posters (English and te reo Māori) which show a selection of indicators used by Māori across Te Wai Pounamu to forecast weather and climate. While the indicators are most useful locally, many are shared by hapū and iwi in other locations. Often more than one indicator is used to forecast for the day, month or season ahead.We hope this work will help young people reconnect with their environment and make the most of all available knowledge to manage the risks associated with changing weather and climate conditions:

These posters are also available to buy in A1 size through NIWA ($5 post and packaging).


Project contact: Apanui Skipper, NIWA | Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Raukawa
Project budget: $100,000
Project duration: January 2016  – June 2017



Return to the Vision Mātauranga programme page
Check out the full list of Deep South Challenge projects

Latest news and updates

Creating a climate-safe Dunedin through community-driven climate action

2018 may well be the year New Zealand gets serious about adapting to our changing climate. Last year, and the start of this one, gave all of us plenty of opportunities to experience a future in which creeping sea level rise and extreme weather – from drought to flood to surprise storm surges – make day-to-day life more precarious and more expensive.

Stormwater, wastewater and climate change: Impacts on our economy, environment, culture and society

In October 2017, the Deep South Challenge released a report into the state of the nation’s storm and waste water infrastructure, in the face of a changing climate. The report garnered significant media attention – not surprising given the infrastructure is currently valued at well over $20 billion.

The Deep South Challenge awards funding to investigate climate-resilient, high-value crops for the whānau of Omaio

The whānau of Omaio in the Bay of Plenty have joined forces with NIWA researchers to explore the viability of climate-resilient, high-value crops for the rohe. The group has won a $250,000 research grant under the Vision Mātauranga programme of the Deep South National Science Challenge to better understand Omaio’s changing climate and how it might support the community to create a local economy based around a high-value product like kiwi fruit.