Summer outlook's not brilliant
By SARAH HARVEY - Sunday Star Times
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2010

Wondering where summer has gone? You're not alone. Much of New Zealand has been wetter, colder and cloudier since the start of 2010 than in previous years and the outlook for the rest of summer is much the same.

On Friday the Desert Road in the central North Island was closed overnight because of wet and wild conditions, and fans at the Phoenix soccer game in Wellington froze in driving rain and freezing temperatures. On the south Wairarapa coast, meanwhile, campers had to be rescued early yesterday when their campsite was flooded by a rising river.

And in the South Island, they're not even sure summer has started earlier this month Invercargill was pummelled by a 15-minute hailstorm.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) climate scientist Andrew Tait said the first two weeks of the year had brought moist air flows in the form of west or south-westerly fronts, which had brought rain and cold temperatures to the south and west of the country.

Even those used to a bit of dampness on the South Island's West Coast have been complaining of full rain gauges. The wettest place in the country was Franz Josef with 635mm of rain in the first 12 days of January, easily exceeding the average 514mm for the entire month of January. Milford Sound, Mt Cook and Hokitika have also been much wetter than normal.

Temperature records tell a similar story, with most of the South Island, Wellington, the Manawatu and Taranaki tracking a good 1.5C below their averages for the time of year.

But not everyone is wet and cold. The rain being dumped on the west and south means little for the dry east and north. There, it may have been warm, and perhaps a bit too dry, with Northland in the grip of a drought and a fire ban in the Bay of Plenty. Lauder in Central Otago has had only 3mm of rain since the start of the year, compared to a January average of 54mm.

Temperatures have been about normal in the east coast of the North Island, Central Otago, South Canterbury, Marlborough and Gisborne, and Canterbury and the north of the North Island have had above-average temperatures.

An El Nino weather pattern that established itself over New Zealand in November and December looks likely to stick around until autumn, and temperatures for the rest of summer are likely to be average or below-average in all regions.

Niwa says summer rainfall totals are likely to be below-average in the north and east of the North Island, normal or below normal in Nelson-Marlborough, and in the normal range in other regions.
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But here is hope. Niwa said there would still be warm spells at times.


Coldest (daily average January 1-12)

Mt Cook 11.6C (down 3C on January average)
Gore 11.6C (down 2.7C)
Waiouru, central North Island 12.3C (down 1.8C)
Dunedin 13.2C (down 1.8C)
Wellington 15.3C (down 1.6C)

Wettest (total January 1-12)

Franz Josef 635mm (long-term average for full month is 514mm)
Milford Sound 597mm (717mm)

From here.