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Opinion: El Nino not living up to hype…for now

Across New Zealand there’s a theme emerging.  Recent polls at back it up too. It’s been a cold and sometimes dry spring, generally, across New Zealand – and with plenty of wind. But despite an ongoing drought in Canterbury, dry areas creeping into Marlborough and North Otago and heat records being broken earlier in the season, many other areas have had rain relief in recent weeks and many farmers are feeling optmistic heading into December.

El Nino tends to fuel more windy westerlies across New Zealand which typically makes for cloudier cooler weather in the north west, wetter weather on the West Coast and Southland and drier weather inland and out to the east of both islands – but as we’ve been saying all year, our country is so small it only takes a couple of large weather systems to make NZ buck the trend. 

The cooler weather this November in many areas is a sign El Nino is here – and the dry pattern forming in the east of the South Island is more evidence.

But so far this spring the North Island, along with western and southern parts of the South Island, are having plenty of rain events.  In fact some say this El Nino spring is wetter than last spring. 

The current poll at WeatherWatch asks if you’re concerned about a dry December. 31% say yes so far. 53% say the recent rain means December is now ok.  The poll closes on Friday night.

The poll the previous week asked people to vote for one word that best summed up Spring 2015 – “Cold” won, followed closely by Windy and then Dry.

Also a poll on the first of November revealed that 58% of New Zealanders were still using some form of “heat” each day to warm themselves up, whie 42% responded with “toughen up!”.

However the concern with El Nino is that summer may all of sudden dry out – the rain makers just suddenly stop reaching us and all of a sudden the spring rains quickly dry up.  There is currently no evidence this is going to happen anytime soon, but as we move into an El Nino summer we may start to see some areas drying out faster than others as our mountains and ranges start to block weaker summer rain fronts. Likely candidates for drier than usual weather this summer are areas inland and towards the east, which may be bad news for farmers but good news for many holiday spots.

The rain this spring in the North Island has been healthy for many farmers and growers – but the next four months in New Zealand are our driest usually, so all eyes will be on how the weather patterns settle and lie as we end the current spring pattern, probably later in December. Then we look towards the peak of the heat and dry from January to March 2016 and start to really focus on any dry patterns emerging early across the country.

– By head weather analyst Philip Duncan.   



Guest on 24/11/2015 9:30pm

What does El Nino mean for mountain ranges east of the main divide in the South Island?  I am looking at doing a fair bit of tramping this summer in that area, but can rain be expected given it is so close to the West Coast, or will the rain be kept at bay in the east by the Main Divide?

WW Forecast Team on 25/11/2015 3:04am

Generally El Nino means drier conditions overall for the east of the South Island. I would say mostly it will be drier then normal for where your talking about but if strong systems push through rain may well pass into eastern parts of the divide. Best to keep an eye on forecasts before venturing out I’d say!


pete on 24/11/2015 7:34pm

Yes a great relief to get some rain in November, cos end of october things were looking pretty ominous.Will be great to get a continuation into December,certainly the summer crops we planted in October are already 3 weeks late and december rain will mean success or failure!

Guest on 23/11/2015 11:57pm

Im in Northern Hawkes Bay (north of Napier) and the grass is green .. there have been a number of rain events too, is this likely to stop?

WW Forecast Team on 24/11/2015 2:10am

It’s a bit odd during an El Nino spring to be seeng so many wet easterly events in the north, but not hearing many complaints about it!  Yes rain events are likely to taper off now for Hawkes Bay, but there are still some fronts to cross over in the coming two weeks, so hopefully still a couple more top ups yet.  


Mike on 24/11/2015 6:53am


Just wondering what your thoughts on what the summer will be like for North Shore in Auckland

 I want to take time off work but I don’t know when to take it as I’m an avid beach goer.


WW Forecast Team on 25/11/2015 3:08am

Warmer then winter, that’s for sure. What your asking is getting a bit specifc and specifics and weather don’t go hand in hand the further you go out.

Just take the time off whenever it suits you the best, not the weather. Try and enjoy it and if you strike it with an anticyclone hovering over you at the time then that’s good going 🙂


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