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Philip Duncan: No Antarctic blasts this winter

As we come to the end of winter I’m astounded to write that we have not had one single national Antarctic blast this whole winter.

It wasn’t until May that the first snow fell across the South Island ski slopes and some were late opening due to lack of the white stuff.

The lack of snow was due to the fact that New Zealand suffered through a dry summer and autumn with constant highs holding firm over the South Island – a pattern that has remained, to some degree, all year.

The first snow in May was also created by the first large low of 2010, up until then rainfall figures were well down for most.

As winter kicked off in June colder weather moved in. We saw snow falling in isolated areas of the South Island and reports of snow on Banks Peninsula. Hail fell in Christchurch.

Snow closed a few South Island alpine passes and the Desert road was shut a few times briefly, but all and all this winter has been kind to most of us. Not all of us, but most.

I’ve had a bit of flack from those in Canterbury because I’ve often written and talked about spring arriving early.

A poll that we ran at WeatherWatch said that 54% of those who voted said spring conditions started back in July. Farmers I spoke to through my weather presenting role at Country99TV have been telling me winter has been fairly mild – this included a few Canterbury farmers.

But I appreciate Canterbury has had a lousy winter really. A lot of cloud, not a lot a of warmth, and some big rainy events. Gloomy, gloomy, gloomy.

But it’s not too often we can come to the end of winter and talk about no major snow events or cold blasts for the entire season.

Our largest city Auckland has certainly ended on a wet note but this winter has been very mild. Warmer than average conditions have spread into a number of other North Island regions – and the South Island’s west coast.

Daytime highs since early July have been constantly hitting 18, 19 and a few times 20 in the North Island.

Oddly, it’s two of our regions closest to Antarctica that have boasted some of the sunniest weather. While low after low tracked across the North Island this winter (the reason it’s been so mild over most of the north) plenty of anticyclones protected the South Island (and stopped a strong southerly flow). Southland and the West Coast have had plenty of sunshine and light winds with farmers I’ve spoken to on the West Coast saying they’ve never seen pastures looking so good for this time of the year due to the extra sunshine hours.

Winter ends on Tuesday – and for others at the spring equinox later in about three weeks time. But to me, when lambs and calves are born, daffodils and buds are blooming, and daytime highs are reaching the late teens and early 20s, it doesn’t matter what the date is – spring has arrived.

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