Research Project

Forecasting weather and climate extremes

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.

Documentary footage being taken outside wharenui

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).

This project makes Māori forecasting knowledge available through video vignettes and bi-lingual educational posters, to promote stronger and closer relationships between people and their local environments.

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. 

This project in the media: