Christmas day in review: How the weather fared

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 11:43 18/12/2012

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We've had the good Yule tidings - Christmas day should be sunny, but now come the bad - past Christmases haven't always lived up to expectations.

Looking back on Christmas day weather, it has always had a "mixed reputation", said National Institute for Weather and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) climate scientist, Georgina Griffiths.

According to figures from Niwa, past Christmases in some centres have yielded a "50:50" rate of good to bad weather.

"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," Griffiths said.

For the past three years, New Zealand has enjoyed stunning Christmas day weather.

In both 2009 and 2011 a large anticyclone covered the country, making it sunny, dry and warm in many regions.

Dunedin was exceptionally warm on December 25, 2009 - hitting 32 degrees  Celcius in a nor'wester.

The same day in 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".

But winding the clock back 37 years, the Christmas of 1975 "was a shocker", said Niwa.

A large storm off the east coast of the South Island delivered cold southerlies and rain to many parts of the country that year.

Down south, temperatures struggled to reach 10C in Dunedin and 13C in Christchurch .

Christmas Day in 2007 was wet for all of the main population centres. Similarly, Christmas in 1973 was extremely wet particularly 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.

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 southeastward across the Bay of Plenty.

MetService has issued the first of its long-range forecasts for this year's Christmas, and thankfully, things are looking much more festive.

The 10-day forecast showed positive signs for heat, if not blue skies, said forecaster Peter Kreft.

Although scattered showers could fetter through parts of the North Island, temperatures were expected to remain high and the capital especially was set for a stunner.

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