Jokes about Dunedin being “the Riviera of the South” may have to be reconsidered after the highest temperature in the country last month – 32degC – was recorded at Dunedin International Airport on Christmas Day.
This is also the second-highest December temperature recorded at the airport since records began there in 1962, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s national climate summary for the month says.
Nugget Point, in the Catlins, recorded 27degC, its third highest December temperature for nearly 40 years, on Christmas Day.
On Boxing Day, Oamaru (16degC) and Cromwell (18.4degC) recorded some their highest daily minimum temperatures for December (third and fourth-highest, respectively).
Alan Porteous, a Niwa agricultural climatologist, said a combination of lower than normal rainfall and warm northwesterly winds last month had clearly contributed to the current extreme fire dangers in Central and North Otago.
Reduced rainfall throughout Otago ranged from about 20% below average in Queenstown (where rainfall totalled 57.4mm) to 63% in Ranfurly (29mm).
Other reductions were: 24% in Alexandra (26.3mm), 44% in Dunedin (39.6mm), 50% in Cromwell (20mm) and Clyde (21mm), and 60% in Middlemarch (24.6mm).
Mr Porteous said that, because of its climatic extremes, Otago had always been challenging for farmers.
“December last year would have been an extra challenging month,” he added.
The drier than usual month had followed a dry November.
Farmers relied on the summer months to deliver much of the region’s annual rainfall.
Such conditions subjected trees and farm animals to extra stress.
Adequate shade and access to water were important.
He had heard anecdotal reports from people living in the Alexandra and Clyde areas, suggesting that conditions were among the driest for 20 to 30 years.
While most of New Zealand made do with average temperatures, Northland and the Bay of Plenty enjoyed above normal sunshine hours and record high temperatures in some areas.
– OTAGO DAILY TIMES