Wellington's cool January: so far 1.7C below average

January 2017: A pedestrian braces himself against a gale, as winds of up to 120kmh hit the city.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

January 2017: A pedestrian braces himself against a gale, as winds of up to 120kmh hit the city.

The calendar says it's summer, but so far the heat has done little more than flirt with capital-dwellers –  and the see-sawing temperatures look set to stay.

And while Wellingtonians may be lamenting a lack of sun, some argue its not too bad, and it just feels cold after a hot summer last year.

But the thermometer doesn't lie, with records showing Wellington's mean maximum temperature for the first 11 days of January in 2017 was 18.6 degrees Celsius.

DECEMBER 25, 2015: Wellington gets a postcard Christmas Day with calm, sunny conditions.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

DECEMBER 25, 2015: Wellington gets a postcard Christmas Day with calm, sunny conditions.

"That's 1.7C below average, which is well below. That's meaningful," Niwa forecaster Chris Brandolino said.

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Our coldest morning so far was on January 5, when we awoke to a cool 6.5C, and since 'summer' began, our maximum temperatures have been 0.9C cooler than normal. 

January 5, 2014: Wind and rain batters Wellington waterfront.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

January 5, 2014: Wind and rain batters Wellington waterfront.

The chilly awakening comes after New Zealand, and Wellington experienced its warmest average annual temperature on record in 2016 at13.9C, 1C more than usual. 

Metservice communications meteorologist Lisa Murray said while the public might think it's unusually chilly for this time, a lot of that perception comes down to what previous years have been like.

"From a Wellington perspective, we've had two really good summers in a row and I think people are comparing it with that," she said.

January 2009: The fishing crowd battle a stiff northerly gale as rain clouds gather over Seatoun Wharf amidst a summer ...
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

January 2009: The fishing crowd battle a stiff northerly gale as rain clouds gather over Seatoun Wharf amidst a summer of wind and cloudy days.

However, Murray said with more than a month of summer left, there should still be plenty of sunshine and warmth in store for most parts of the country.

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"Historically and statistically, February is generally a better weather month right around the country and already there are places, mostly in the North Island that are basking in it."

Brandolino said a series of cold fronts which have flicked up chillier-than-average southern air – and more of it – was to blame for the sub-par summer.

March 2013: A dry Matiu/Somes Island, seen from the Korokoro hills.
FILE

March 2013: A dry Matiu/Somes Island, seen from the Korokoro hills.

On Thursday winds up to 120km peeled billboards off two CBD buildings and saw grounds crew at the Basin Reserve dance with flying tarpaulins after the Black Caps test was stalled due to drizzle. 

"Wellington has been affected by more than usual south to southwest winds," Brandolino said.

Whenever low pressure moves south in a hurry, it creates a wind funnel.

"There's all this air over the Tasman Sea being forced to go through Cook Strait and that's like putting your thumb over the end of the garden hose, because [the air] has to move faster."

Niwa's outlook for summer has predicted temperatures and rainfall to hover around average, but Brandolino admits it's hard to tell what could really happen.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we continued with this up and down, or traditional summer weather, coupled with un-traditional chilly bouts."

Traditionally, Hawke's Bay is one of the warmest spots in the country each summer, and 2017 is no exception so far.

For Napier, the average January temperature so far has been 26.9C, a massive 3C warmer than usual.

Hastings had been warm since the year began, Brandolino said.

In the next week or two, we can expect bouts of chilly weather mixed with warm temperatures.

"As we look ahead to next Thursday to Saturday there's going to be some pretty chilly air that comes over us and that's an example of this see-sawing."

OUR SUMMER HOLIDAYS: HOW THEY COMPARE

2016/17: Wellington clocks up hottest year on record for 2016, in line with a global trend. The year ended with below average temperatures and sunshine hours, and near normal rainfall.

2015/16: Temperatures were slightly up for January, as was rainfall, but sunshine hours were down.

2014/15: Paraparaumu and Wellington received record low rain in January, with 4mm and 2mm respectively. Wellington was the driest centre in the country for January. 

2013/14: Dry, sunny days on Christmas Day and New Year's eve. Wellington temperatures were 1.3C above their December average - hovering at about 16.7 - and the city received about 60 per cent of its usual rain.

2012/13: Cyclone Evan brought very high Christmas and Boxing Day temperatures from Taranaki to Wellington. Drought was declared in Northland and northern Auckland in late-February and extended to the whole of the North Island by mid-March.

2011/12: After a year of extreme weather, 2012 began hot and sunny, bar some early January flooding in Hawke's Bay. The summer was the worst for hayfever sufferers in five years.

2010/11: A La Nina brought a warm summer for the region and above average rainfall for Hawke's Bay.

2009/10: It was a wet summer, with a MetService forecaster saying on January 22, "the last dry weekend in Wellington was in mid-November".

2008/09: 2008 was the third wettest year since 1864, but the summer was glorious, thanks to higher air pressures over the Pacific Ocean.

2007/08: After a year of drought, tornadoes and lahars, a La Nina brought a warm summer to the central and Lower North Island.

 - Stuff

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