Record heat across the country in February but change is on the way
After a record-breaking February, the glorious summer of 2016 looks set to start losing its grip.
Last month was "exceptionally hot" with many regions two to three degrees Celsius above normal, MetService said on Tuesday.
"Temperatures in the lower North Island and upper South Island surpassed even the brutal heat of February 1998."
It was the warmest month ever recorded in Taupo, New Plymouth, Palmerston North,Paraparaumu, Wellington and Nelson, MetService said.
* Blenheim records second hottest February in 84 years
* Christchurch's February hot spell could be a record-breaker
* Nelson swelters with hottest summer on record
* Wellington's long hot summer: February the warmest month on record
Dunedin had its warmest February and Tauranga its equal warmest.
Many other places, such as Hamilton, Masterton, Napier, Blenheim, Christchurch and Invercargill had their second warmest February.
Even more than the heat, it was the sunshine that had the people of Marlborough feeling a warm glow.
After a duller than usual January, Blenheim had its third sunniest February, with 289.3 hours of sunshine. Why that really matters is because it means Blenheim is the sunniest place in the country so far in 2016.
In the hotly-contested race to be the most sun-kissed town in the country, Blenheim is heading Nelson, although not by much more than 20 hours.
There appears to be just a hint of triumphalism in the comparison with Whakatane. According to Plant and Food scientist Rob Agnew, the Bay of Plenty town apparently suffered a "major derailment" last month.
The fact that Whakatane recorded 93.9 hours less sunshine than Blenheim in February is staggering," Agnew said.
Whakatane's descent into comparative gloom could have something to do with the unexpected weather pattern that set in at the start of 2016.
With a monster El Nino weather system in play, upending normal patterns across much of the Pacific, summer temperatures in this country were expected to be pretty average, with the north and east of the country expected to be drier than normal.
Obviously it didn't really pan out that way.
During February a blocking high lay to the east of the country, with frequent northeasterly winds prevailing over the North Island and northwesterlies over the lower South Island.
"The month was characterised by hot, dry spells interspersed by bursts of sub-tropical rain for those regions in the north and west of both Islands. In contrast, the lower North Island and eastern regions of both Islands received below normal rainfall," MetService said.
"A pattern like this is not standard El Nino, with the blocking high pressure east of the country dominating."
Blocking highs were expected to hang around for another week or so, but more changeable weather was likely to show up in the second week of March.
February won't be just a memory, though, with MetService expecting above average temperatures across the country except in Southland and Otago.
But don't get too hopeful. "Note that we expect the warmth in March to be far more muted than was seen during February," MetService said.
At least the sticky nights in northern areas could be a thing of the past.
MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths said she had lived in Auckland most of her life and had not experienced a pulse of humidity like the one in the city so far in 2016.
In the last few days of February the humidity had been "outrageous". "It kind of felt like Fiji," she said.
Despite luxuriating through their balmiest month in living memory, Wellingtonians have been warmer during the whole three months of summer before.
"When you look at summer as a whole, the "golden" summer of 1935 (in Wellington) still trumps more recent weather," Griffiths said.
The average temperature in the summer of 1934/35 was 19C, compared to 17.4C over December 2015 to February 2016.
Summer 2016 was the fifth-equal warmest at the Kelburn weather station in Wellington.
High pressures to the east of central New Zealand brought the particularly settled weather that Wellington enjoyed during February, Griffiths said.
"Wellington is superb under northeasterly winds – nice and sheltered and typically very sunny".
Auckland had its second-equal warmest summer, Tauranga its second warmest and Hamilton its third warmest.