Wellington, March 5
Nelson has again pipped the neighbouring centre of Blenheim for the title of the nation’s sunshine capital.
Climate scientists at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) said today Nelson set a record for summer sunshine of 878 hours – 20 percent above normal – and the highest since records began over 70 years ago.
The earliest Nelson and New Zealand sunshine records started in 1930, and Nelson set the national record for annual sunshine hours the following year – 2711 hours in 1931.
That still remains New Zealand’s full-year record for sunshine hours.
But this summer, though it was sunnier than usual in Marlborough, Buller, and North Canterbury, with totals at least 10 percent above normal, the summer sunshine record was also set at Nelson, said senior Niwa climate scientist Jim Salinger.
The "sunshine capital" rivalry between Nelson and Blenheim has been long-argued between the two cities, with Blenheim locals claiming Blenheim is sunniest in twice as many years as Nelson.
Hours of bright sunshine were below average in Auckland, eastern Bay of Plenty, King Country and Tongariro.
Dr Salinger said the summer had been one of climate extremes including droughts, floods and high humidity. The national average temperature for the past summer of 16.8degC was 0.2degC above normal. The extremely dry conditions in central New Zealand – the third driest summer in some regions in 140 years of record keeping – produced severe soil moisture deficits and very high fire risk in Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough and Canterbury by the end of summer.
Summer rainfall was extremely low throughout Marlborough and Wellington where rainfall was less than 25 and 50 percent of normal respectively. Some areas within these regions experienced their driest summer since that of 1907/08.
Nelson was also much drier than average with totals less than 50 percent of normal. Other regions with below average rainfall were Canterbury and Taranaki, with totals between 50 and 75 percent of normal.
Near or record low rainfall was recorded at Paraparaumu, which had 96 mm – only 45 percent of normal; Kelburn, Wellington, 82 mm, (36 percent of normal) Blenheim, 27 mm, (19 percent) Winchmore, 99 mm, (57 percent).
In contrast, it was frequently wet in the northeast of the country.
The warm, dry and sunny conditions throughout central New Zealand were brought by more anticyclones in the Tasman Sea.
But at the same time more depressions northeast of Northland caused the warm, wet and humid conditions – to the extent that some Gisborne melon growers are abandoning their crops and grapegrowers are watching their fruit split and rot on the vine. The summer was unsettled in Bay of Plenty, especially in the east, where rainfall ranged from 125 to 185 percent of normal. It was also wetter than usual in eastern areas of Northland, Coromandel, and parts of Waikato, Gisborne and Wairarapa with rainfall about 120 percent of normal.
Near or record high summer rainfall was recorded at Whakatane with 382 mm, 147 percent of normal and 3rd highest in records back to 1975. Above average temperatures occurred throughout Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, southern Wairarapa, Marlborough and Nelson, all at least 0.5degC above normal.
Below average temperatures occurred in Central Otago, and Fiordland, with mean temperatures at least 0.5degC below normal.
NZPA WGT kca cs se ©05/03/01 18-38NZ