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Historical Christmas Day weather

Christmas is coming! From the records, what chance is there of a sunny, or stormy, Christmas Day?

NIWA’s Climate Scientist Georgina Griffiths says, “Historically, Christmas Day has a mixed reputation.

“Looking at the last decade, Christmas Day weather has been settled and dry for Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Christchurch, in about two out of three years, on average. For Dunedin and Wellington, the odds of a dry Christmas Day have typically been closer to 50:50.

“New Zealand has enjoyed beautiful Christmas Day weather for the last three years. In both 2009 and 2011 a large anticyclone (High) covered the country, and it was extremely sunny, dry and warm in many regions. Notably, Dunedin had an extremely warm Christmas Day in 2009, hitting 32 degrees in a nor’wester. Christmas Day 2010 was also dry in most places, due to an anticyclone over the Tasman Sea, but it was somewhat cooler, due to south-westerly winds.”

Looking back further, however, we can see Christmas Day weather is not always settled.

Christmas Day in 1975, says Griffiths, “was a shocker.” A very large storm off the east coast of the South Island delivered cold southerlies and rain to many parts of the country. Temperatures struggled to reach 10 degrees in Dunedin, and 13 degrees in Christchurch.

Christmas Day in 2007 was wet for all of the main population centres, while Christmas 1973 was extremely wet in Hamilton and Wellington.

During the tropical cyclone season (November – April), on average, one ex-tropical cyclone comes within 550km of New Zealand. Occasionally, tropical visitors come close to the North Island around Christmas Day. Since 1970, there have been five ex-tropical cyclones that have approached the North Island during December – roughly one every eight years, on average. Ex-tropical cyclone Fergus was the most recent December system, affecting the North Island in December 1996. Fergus produced over 300mm of rain in 24 hours to Coromandel, as it tracked southeastwards across the Bay of Plenty.

Christmas Day highlights:

Christmas Day: AucklandHamiltonTaurangaWellingtonChristchurchDunedin
Sunniest:2009 (13.7 hr)2009 (13.6 hr)1996 (13.9 hr)2011 (14.4 hr)2000 (14.9 hr)1988 (12.4 hr)
Wettest:1987 (24 mm)1973 (26 mm)1926 (47 mm)1973 (49 mm)1975 (18.6 mm)1969 (33 mm)
Warmest:1969 (26.6C)1981 (26.8C)1947 (28.2C)1934 (28.7C)1979 (29.6C)2009 (32.0C)

Whatever weather Christmas Day 2012 does bring to your place, NIWA wishes you a safe and happy holiday season.


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