Ask a Scientist: Spring wild
With winter behind us and the first signs of spring starting to peep through, you could be forgiven for wondering what mother nature has been playing at over the past few days.
Parts of New Zealand have been subjected to some of the worst weather to hit the country this year, and for those flying into Wellington Airport, that's particularly bad news.
But the comments of a flight attendant on one such flight got a Stuff.co.nz reader wondering why the weekend's windy weather wasn't taking Air New Zealand's flight crew by greater surprise.
Michelle emailed us to say that while assuring their passengers, an air hostess said: "spring typically made for bumpier landings".
Isn't spring weather supposed to start clearing up? she asked in a question for Stuff's 'Ask a Scientist' series. Not exactly, says MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett.
"Spring is traditionally associated with an invigoration of the westerlies which dominate our latitudes, known as the 'roaring forties,'" he said.
"Areas of high pressure become more common just north of New Zealand while the storm tracks of the Southern Ocean pass just south of or over the country, as we witnessed [on the] weekend.
"The tight pressure gradients - the closeness of the isobars on the weather map - between these features is what brought about the strong and damaging winds of [the] weekend."
Corbett said Spring could also be a time of active and changeable weather.
"The warming subtropics contrast with the still-cold deep south, strengthening the winds of the jetstream higher in the atmosphere, which in turn contribute energy to developing weather systems or storms.
"While it can be changeable for Wellington as well as New Zealand as a whole, the westerlies often have to cross the South Island before reaching us as a gusty northerly and are therefore often dry and clear – even if they may provide for some bumpy landings!"
Passengers flying into Wellington over the weekend were contending 140kmh winds and it was reported passengers on a Jetstar flight screamed as their plane made two failed landing attempts in the damaging gales thrashing the capital.
The crazy winds meant many of the flights in and out of the capital had to be rebooked because they were either cancelled, diverted or delayed.
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- © Fairfax NZ News
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