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Opinion: Is this really winter? Because it feels more like early spring

It’s August 1st today and this is usually considered the true depths of winter, but across New Zealand we’re hearing it feels more like an early spring especially on a week with warmer than average weather. has often maintained that New Zealand tends to get just two months of real winter and two months of true summer weather, with the other eight months of the year a combination of spring/autumn conditions (windy, showers, variable temperatures).

Winter is the coldest season of the year. It’s defined as being a time of decay and decline.

Spring, on the other hand, is defined as life surging back, or to suddenly move upwards.

Across New Zealand we’re getting reports of blossoms out, pasture suddenly growing and temperatures well above normal, not to mention lambs and calves being born, or even monarch butterflies hatching. Not only does it FEEL like spring but there are physical signs of spring in nature. It’s not just subjective. 

This isn’t the first year has declared an early start to spring. It’s happened every year for the past five years.

Spring is all about winter fading away and summer slowly coming in, so we don’t just switch up a notch and find it’s all warm now. Spring can have brutal snow storms and fierce frosts, possible right through until October. 

So has winter officially ended early? No, we’re basically transitioning out of winter and into spring a few weeks early – which means we’re likely to have a longer spring. In mid August 2011 we had a snow storm that brought snow to downtown Auckland and the hills of Northland, so you can never say never – but the latest long range models indicate more southerlies next week but nothing polar at this stage. More days are frost free than have the risk of frost. Once we reach mid-Autumn it’s hard to lock in that winter description of “decay and decline” because usually many regions are noticing warmer spring conditions for more than half the days of the week. 

Of course we’re talking about spring WEATHER conditions. The seasons themselves do tend to be fixed, especially if you’re a fan of the astronomical seasons (seasons set up around the longest/shortest days of the year, equinox etc). Using that logic it means we’re in winter from June 21 to September 21, totally regardless of any weather conditions or what nature is doing. As weather forecasters we don’t tend to focus too much on the astronomical seasons as they don’t always link up with our weather here in NZ.

New Zealand’s location as two large mountainous islands partially in the Roaring 40s belt of strong winds means our seasons aren’t always clear cut, which is why right now people can argue we are both in winter and spring despite being, apparently, in the ‘depths of winter’.

– Photo / “Danseys Pass late afternoon, from the gravel road between the Waitaki and Maniototo Valleys, northwest fohn conditions with lenticular billow clouds and the setting sun touching the mountain tops above inland tussock grasslands” Photo Uploade directly to the WeatherWatch gallery by NEVILLE PEAT, 28th July.

– By head forecaster Philip Duncan.


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