Our winter of content

20:25, Jun 20 2014

The days are already getting longer and winter is yet to bite.

Today is the shortest day of the year, and while many will relish the unusually warm start to the coldest season, it means ski fields on Ruapehu are still waiting for a big dump of snow.

The warm winter so far has been great for Matthew Affleck, 2, and brother Thomas, of Crofton Downs, who hit Oriental Bay in Wellington yesterday for icecreams, bike riding, and a play on the sand. They didn't actually swim but went in the sea to collect water, mother Bridget Affleck said. "Their trousers were pretty wet when we left."

Figures from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research showed Wellington was "well above" average for June so far, forecaster Chris Brandolino said.

A lack of southerlies was the major cause. Kelburn has had an average temperature so far this month of 11.8 degrees Celsius - 2.1C above normal.

Wellington Airport has had an average of 11.9C, or 1.4C higher than normal.


Nearly all of New Zealand was "well above" average, with places that were simply "above" average being the exception, Brandolino said.

Under Niwa guidelines, temperatures between 0.5C and 1.19C above average were described as "above average" and 1.2C-plus was "well above".

Of particular note in the lower North Island were Palmerston North, which was 2.8C higher than average, and Napier at 1.9C more than normal.

Mt Ruapehu, whose temperature is measured near the Chateau, at the bottom of the road to Whakapapa ski field, so far averaged 6.2C this winter - 2.6C more than average. Mt Ruapehu spokeswoman Annah Dowsett said the beginner slopes at Turoa and Whakapapa were on track to open next weekend, as it was cold enough to make snow.

There was similar warm weather last winter, then the June storms, which caused extensive damage in Wellington, blew through dumping snow on the mountain. There was already some natural snow on the fields, with more forecast. On the mountain, higher than the Niwa station, it was dropping below freezing level at night, she said.

Today is the southern hemisphere winter solstice - the year's longest night and shortest day. In Wellington, the Sun will rise at 7.47am, and set at 4.58pm.

This year's warm start to winter comes after last year's warmest winter on record. The whole of 2013 was the third warmest since records began more than a century ago.

May was unusually dry and warm, with a mean temperature of 12.4C being 0.7C above average, and rainfall was only 66 per cent of average May levels.

Earlier this month, Niwa was predicting a warm winter for the lower North Island as easterly winds and mild ocean temperatures combined for a balmier than usual season.

International guidance indicated El Nino was now the most likely outcome for winter.

Brandolino said that, if El Nino developed as expected in late winter and early spring, the country could expect a windy, wet spring and summer in the west, with drought conditions in the east. He warned yesterday that, while winter was expected to be generally warm, there would still be cold snaps.

MetService is forecasting a rainy, windy, but warm day today, with a 15C high.

Tomorrow would clear for a 13C high.

The Dominion Post