By Jake Beleski
You may have found less use for the winter woollies in Wairarapa during 2016, and findings released yesterday explain why.
Masterton enjoyed the biggest increase to its average temperature of any region in the country in 2016, according to the data released by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
The average air temperature was 14.4 degrees, the highest ever recorded since 1906, and a full two degrees higher than the normal average for the region.
Masterton also enjoyed its second-highest sunshine hours ever recorded, with 2282.
That was 114 per cent of the usual average for the region.
Richmond (2840), Blenheim (2582) and Takaka (2534) recorded the most sunshine hours in the country.
Masterton was not the only area to enjoy an increase in average temperatures, as most places around the country basked in the hottest year since records began over 100 years ago.
NIWA’s data revealed that seven months recorded above average temperatures. January, September, November and December experienced near-average temperatures.
August was the only month where temperatures were below average.
Warmer than usual ocean temperatures were just one of the main reasons temperatures on land had increased so much, NIWA forecaster and meteorologist, Chris Brandolino said.
“There are three main reasons for the increase in temperatures,” he said.
“Ocean temperatures, pressure anomalies and climate change.
“The pressures gave us more north to northwest winds than usual, so it was coming from a warm direction more often than not.”
Overall, annual mean sea level pressures for 2016 were lower than normal to the southwest of New Zealand and slightly higher than normal to the east of the North Island.
That pressure setup produced more northerlies and northwesterlies than normal over the country, which contributed to the exceptional warmth experienced in New Zealand during the year.
In addition, sea surface temperatures both surrounding New Zealand and to its west, were typically higher than normal, particularly from January to July.
The first seven months of the year were remarkably warm, with the nation-wide average temperature higher than average for each month, respectively.
The three warmest months in 2016 compared to normal averages were February (2.2 degrees above average), May (2.1 degrees above average) and June (1.6 degrees above average).
The nation-wide average temperature for 2016 was 13.4 degrees according to NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which began in 1909.
Based on this series, 2016 surpassed 1998 as New Zealand’s warmest-ever year on record.
Mr Brandolino said New Zealand’s temperature increases were part of a worldwide trend.
“Globally, it was the warmest year on record, beating 2015.”
“The United States had their second-warmest year on record, Singapore had their warmest year on record, and across the ditch in Australia, 2016 was the fourth-warmest year on record.”
Summer just beginning for Wairarapa
Wairarapa residents may feel like they have not enjoyed the best of summer yet, but that is nothing new, NIWA forecaster and meteorologist, Chris Brandolino said.
“People have very selective memories when it comes to weather.
“It may be on the cool side but if we use Wellington as a gauge and look at the same period in 2015 including the end of December and early January, it is actually warmer this time around.”
The average during that period in 2015 was 15.7 degrees, compared to 15.8 degrees this time around.
There was plenty of time left for summer to fully kick in, he said.
“There is at least an equal chance for temperatures to be average or above average for the rest of summer and heading into autumn.
“It’s too early to declare summer as damaged goods because we’ve still got more than half of it to go – there’s plenty of time left.”
In the short-term, MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said temperatures were set to increase.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be mostly fine for most of the week, but we are forecasting a bit of rain later on Thursday and early Friday as a front passes over.
“We’re looking at 28 degrees [today], 26 tomorrow, 25 on Thursday and 22 on Friday.”
Strong winds were going to be the main concern for Wairarapa residents over the coming days, he said.
“The overall situation is we have a front moving over the country on Thursday and it’s preceded by a really strong northwest flow.
“Most of the rain is in the western areas but some will spill into Wairarapa, although I think the wind will be the main problem.”
Gusts could reach gale-force in exposed places on Wednesday night and throughout Thursday, he said.
Temperatures were likely to cool again heading into the weekend.
“After the front goes through it turns southwest so a bit of a cooler air mass moves onto the country.”