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February 2014: Widespread dryness for much of NZ

February Climate Summary

February 2014 was characterised by anomalously high pressure to the south of New Zealand and anomalously lower pressures to the northeast of the country. This set up resulted in a predominantly southeast wind flow over the country for the month. Consequently, this contributed to the abnormally dry conditions in western and central areas of the North Island. In contrast, this supported higher than normal rainfall for eastern coastal sections of the North Island.

Well below normal rainfall (less than 50 percent of February normal) occurred for much of the North Island except for eastern Northland where near (within 20% of normal) or above normal (120-150% of normal) rainfall was recorded and for the coast south of Hawke’s Bay, where well above normal (more than 150% of normal) rainfall was recorded. Below normal rainfall (50-79 percent of February normal) occurred for the remainder of the North Island. Many locations in the South Island were well below normal, such as parts of north Canterbury and southern Marlborough regions, but especially in areas from south Canterbury through central Otago and northern Southland regions. Most other parts of the South Island recorded below normal rainfall, with the exception of Christchurch which recorded above normal and Dunedin which recorded near normal precipitation.

Temperatures for much of New Zealand were near average (within 0.5°C of February average). Exceptions to this were localised areas of above average temperatures such as Auckland, Hamilton, and central North Island (0.5-1.2°C above February average). Above average temperatures were recorded in Reefton and Arthurs Pass as well as parts of south Canterbury, Central Otago and Fiordland. Pockets of below average temperatures (0.5-1.2°C below February average) were experienced for Wellington, northern portions of Hawke’s Bay and far northern parts of the South Island. The nation-wide average temperature in February 2014 was 17.3°C (0.1C° above the 1971-2000 February average from NIWA’s seven station temperature series which begins in 1909).

As at 1 March 2014, soils were much drier than normal across the North Island, except for eastern Northland and the coast south of Hawke’s Bay where soils are slightly wetter than normal for time of year. Drier than normal soils for much of the interior of the South Island, particularly Tasman, Marlborough and much of Canterbury and Southland regions. Western coastal areas and around Banks Peninsula have slightly wetter than normal soils for this time of year. Soil moisture deficits are not as extensive as those a year ago in the 2013 drought, but may be as severe as 2013 in isolated regions. Soil moisture levels are lowest, relative to normal at this time of year, in the Waikato, Waitomo and Taupo districts.

Above normal sunshine was recorded for the central portions of the North Island (110-124 percent of February normal). North of Auckland, sunshine was well below normal (less than 75 percent of February normal). Areas around Nelson recorded above normal sunshine as well as inland Canterbury and Dunedin. Near normal sunshine was recorded elsewhere (within 10 percent of February normal).

Further Highlights:

• The highest temperature was 35.7°C, observed at Clyde on 20 February.
• The lowest temperature was -2.4°C, observed at Pukaki on 23 February.
• The highest 1-day rainfall was 108 mm, recorded at Milford Sound on 21 February.
• The highest wind gust was 156 km/hr, observed at Cape Turnagain on 13 February.
• In February 2014, Auckland was the warmest and driest, Dunedin was the coolest and cloudiest, Tauranga was the wettest with Hamilton the sunniest of the six main centres.
• Of the available, regularly reporting sunshine observation sites, the sunniest four centres so far in 2014 (February) are: Whakatane (578 hours), Lake Tekapo (546 hours), Nelson (534 hours) and Takaka (534 hours).


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