Saturday, 26 September 2020


This year was Whitianga's warmest winter on record

This year has delivered Whitianga’s warmest winter since official temperature recording started in the town in 1962.

The warmest three winter months - June, July and August - was repeated at 17 other spots across the country during what was the hottest ever winter season for New Zealand. The record 9.6°C mean temperature nationwide was 1.1°C above the average, which NIWA calculated based on the 20 years from 1981 to 2010. Up until now, 2013 was the country’s warmest winter on record.

Whitianga clocked up an overall mean temperature of 12.2°C, 1.5°C above average. The mean maximum was 16.6°C, which is 1.4°C above normal and night-time temperatures overall were 1.7°C above average at 8.0°C.

Consistently warmer temperatures throughout winter drove the record temperatures rather than any extreme highs which were seen in other locations such as Timaru which hit 25.1°C on 30 August, its highest winter temperature ever and the equal fourth warmest winter temperature on record for New Zealand as a whole. With a mean of 11.7°C, Paeroa experienced is second warmest winter, 1.4°C above average. The lowest temperature recorded in New Zealand throughout the season was -12.3°C, observed at Middlemarch on 14 June.

NIWA forecaster, Ben Noll, says the winter warmth can be attributed to several factors. More sub-tropical north-easterly winds than normal, particularly in the North Island, brought warmer air towards New Zealand from the north. Sea surface temperatures were also above average, especially during August.

As an island nation, New Zealand’s air temperatures are strongly influenced by the seas surrounding the country. Air pressure was higher than normal, particularly to the east. This contributed to a sunnier than normal winter in much of the South Island and lower North Island. And the warmth over winter is also consistent with New Zealand’s long-term trend of increasing air temperatures due to climate change.

The Coromandel also featured heavily in NIWA’s report on major weather events during the winter, with flooding and road closures occurring on 21 June, 25 June and again on 17 July. The deluges on the eastern seaboard surprisingly did not register on the records board. However, Thames’s 106mm on 20 June was the town’s third highest one day rainfall since 1957 when recordkeeping for the town began. The Karangahake Gorge in neighbouring Hauraki District recorded its fourth highest one day total of 120mm on 25 June.

All the indications are that we may well see a continuation of this mild weather as we move through spring. “New Zealand’s coastal water temperatures are well above average for the time of year and are expected to have an upward influence on air temperatures through spring,” NIWA’s seasonal outlook for September to November says. “Air temperatures are most likely to be above average in all regions of New Zealand. North-easterly winds are expected to continue to leave northern areas, such as Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula and the East Cape, exposed to sub-tropical rainstorms.”

However, a prediction of normal or potentially even above normal rainfalls for this part of the country will be welcome news ahead of the summer season with near normal soil moisture levels and river flows also forecast as likely.

Pictured: Whitianga from the air this winter. This year’s winter was the warmest in Whitianga since official temperature recording started almost 60 years ago.


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