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Blog: Weather giving Forecasters a (short) breather

November was the last month I can recall where weather conditions were generally quiet – then summer arrived and not only ruined the holidays of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis but weather forecasters across New Zealand also missed out on a chance at switching off a bit.

Since starting WeatherWatch seven years ago I’ve become used to the weather patterns and workloads that go with them.  Winter is by far the busiest season, with forecasters constantly working out the timing of fronts and the energy that comes with each one.  Spring and Autumn can also be lively – but we tend to have highs that can last around five days giving us a little time out.

Summer is then the quieter season….or rather, “should be”.

In Summer we do have the wild card effect – a tropical cyclone may suddenly turn up and severe thunderstorms can also bring in a rush of sudden work. 

But generally speaking summer should see forecasts that don’t chop and change and where rain bands come and visit once every couple of weeks.  This allows forecasters to mentally refresh and prepare for the busier months ahead.

But this past summer was anything but quiet.  While it didn’t pack a punch with heat it didn’t really pack a punch with severe weather either – it was just cloudy, windy and cool for many places, meaning forecasters were micro-forecasting – having to really zoom in to see what was happening on a very local scale in each region to ensure our forecasts and news stories were as accurate as possible.

When a big high is lying over the country you can often have the same weather from Northland to Southland and everywhere in between.

Weather forecasting over summer this year wasn’t what I’d call hard work, but it was relentless.  The benign weather was frustrating – showers popping up when the data suggested otherwise, winds and clouds lasted longer than they usually do in summer and weather forecasters were kept on their toes from day one.

Now that March has arrived we’ve seen two big highs.  One was two weeks ago, the other is this week. 

With a significant lack of severe weather over recent months it’s meant forecasters haven’t been stretched for the most part – just busy dealing with the constant line up of small, ‘niggly’ weather.

So this week the sun is out for many areas…the chance of rain is considered less than 10% for most regions.  The winds are light, the days are warm and the nights are cool – and generally speaking Thursday to Sunday look great for many areas.  (we have to say “generally’ because we do expect a few coastal clouds which could produce a shower in the east).

Of course in the past 24 hours we’ve talked about a possible tropical cyclone next week.  We’re waiting for one last model sweep before we commit to a forecast – the data is a little too conflicting at the moment.

So for now – like many other New Zealanders – we’re just enjoying a slightly quieter week of weather this week.  Here’s hoping April will be similar to March.

– Homepage image / Debbie Zillwood

– By head weather analyst Philip Duncan


Hutton on 27/03/2012 11:18pm

I am supposed to travel from the Waikato to Hawkes Bay for the weekend for a sporting event, but am finding your forecast in conflict with Metservice.
Metservice indicates both days being grey and miserable (i.e. dark grey cloud and rain drops on the model) – you are saying fine and sunny?
Last time I went down that way the weathe bomb hit and am not keen getting wet again.
Any suggestion as to whom to believe?

WW Forecast Team on 28/03/2012 1:05am

Hi there – we’re going to be adding more detail to our regional forecasts later this year – at the moment they are too simplistic.  However our data suggests just a 30% chance of rain for Hawkes Bay this week.  Most likely conditions will be dry for your drive but a risk of showers develops once you travel east of Taupo.  Eastern parts of the North Island will be windier and cloudier this weekend with a 30 to 40% risk (maximum) of showers at this stage.


– WW

Duncan on 27/03/2012 10:41am

Yes but i do remember in Wellington the 2 weeks leading upto and including xmas was awesome, the best xmas day in years!!

Mark on 27/03/2012 3:33am

I know it’s impossible to tell from this distance what is precisely going to happen but do you what the indications are for next summer re El Nino or La Nina?

WW Forecast Team on 27/03/2012 3:35am

Hi Mark – nothing too concrete out there but there has been some chatter about El Nino returning – which has been a while so would make sense.  As soon as we know something we’ll post it here – check out the NOAA website in the US too, as they are often the first at making the predictions and look at it from more of a global/Pacific view than NIWA who are more NZ/Pacific Island focused.


– PD

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