Scorching month is fifth sunniest

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 08:31 04/02/2013

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There is no doubt this summer's been a scorcher - in fact, it has been so sunny that last month entered the record books as Manawatu's fifth sunniest January in nearly 85 years.

Amateur astronomer Ian Cooper has been keeping an eye on the sky, the Sun and the ranges recently, with research showing the region's broken a new record.

"A lot of people have been talking about the good summer we've been having, but actually, the numbers can tell us how extremely good it has been," Mr Cooper said.

As president of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society, Mr Cooper has access to daily data from Niwa's Turitea site.

He has tracked down the monthly sunlight averages since the site's 1928 inception and determined last month's rays tallied to 248 hours worth of sunshine.

The figure placed this year's January fifth on the list, with the record at 302 hours of sunshine in 1957.

As for rain, 29 millimetres fell last month, making it the region's eighth driest January on record.

Mr Cooper said the the balmy weather was caused by El Nino and La Nina patterns - weather systems that occur across the Pacific Ocean every five years or so and lead to temperature variation and changes in air surface pressure, causing extreme weather like floods or droughts.

The region could be on the brink of a drought, Mr Cooper said.

"It's an insidious sort of thing, drought, it sort of creeps up on you . . . and as much as we all enjoy this warmer weather, it has its detrimental effect on the district.

"What I can tell you is it's not over yet, we have a few more dry months to come and it may be quite a significant summer once it all plays out."

The ranges were a telling factor of dry times ahead, Mr Cooper said.

"The steep faces of the Tararua foothills are a great litmus test for all to see as to how any drought is progressing and the green colour has noticeably leached . . . over the past week.

"Just take a look out over Linton."

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- Manawatu Standard

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