January a month of extremes

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013
harvest
John Bisset
GOLDEN HARVEST: TImaru's warm and dry January was a boon for harvester. This picture was taken last week near Jack's Point.

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January has been a month of weather extremes for South Canterbury, from high temperatures to heavy rain.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa)'s latest climate summary revealed that Aoraki-Mt Cook recorded 1018 millimetres of rain last month, its third-wettest since records began in 1928.

But Tekapo recorded 325 sunshine hours for the month, the resort town's sunniest January on record.

Timaru also experienced the golden weather; last month's mean afternoon temperature was 23.2 degrees Celsius - or 1.6 degrees above the monthly average.

Niwa climate scientist Georgina Griffiths said it had been a month of two halves.

"There were a lot of tropic northwestern winds during the first half of January, bringing unsettled weather. Then there was a 'blocking high' that shut out all other systems in the second half of the month, leading to high sunshine across the eastern South Island."

Ms Griffiths said Timaru recorded four days where the temperatures rose above 30C last month, with the highest being 33C on January 5.

"Rainfall was slightly above average but most of it came at the start of the month."

However, the staff at the Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park were left counting the cost of the damage from the heavy rain, which included 346mm on January 9 alone.

Acting area manager Ronan Grew said the rain had caused significant problems for holiday-makers and staff.

"It's fair to say it's been a pretty tough month in parts. The rain forced many visitors to cut short their stay here," Mr Grew said.

"The flooding at White Horse Hills camp grounds was such that the stopbanks were nearly breached and we had small sections of walking tracks washed away. The basement at the visitors' centre also flooded at one stage."

The national park staff also had to contend with a three-kilometre rockfall off Mt Dixon on January 21, although Mr Grew said this was caused by natural erosion.

"When it hasn't been raining, it's been really hot, too," he said.

Of the six main centres last month, Auckland was the warmest, Dunedin the coolest, Wellington the wettest, and Tauranga the driest.

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- The Timaru Herald

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