With the coming months set to deliver temperatures not seen in Wairarapa for more than two years, Niwa [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] meteorologist Tristan Meyers is warning this weekend may see a heightened risk of heat stress in the region.
“Saturday does look particularly hot, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we did reach the mid-30s [degrees Celsius],” Meyers said.
Current temperature forecasts show that highs are expected to range around the high 20s to low 30s over the weekend.
Wairarapa last saw temperatures above 31C in January 2021, but Meyers doesn’t believe it is out of the realm of possibility for the eastern parts of Wairarapa, in particular, to reach those highs again.
“I wouldn’t rule out more hot days coming later in the month and into February,” he said.
The weather conditions over recent months have been drier than normal due to the officially declared El Niño season.
“The current observations for what’s happening in Wairarapa right now are that it’s very dry to extremely dry conditions; the forecast isn’t boding very well, and we could continue to see those conditions expand over the next months,” Meyers said.
Drier conditions have seen local firefighters battling blazes in rural areas and a close watch being placed on particularly dry locations along the coast like Riversdale, Castlepoint, and Ngawi.
“It’s very unsurprising that you are seeing more fire activity,” Meyers said, noting that Spring was very dry for region, with Martinborough receiving just half the normal rainfall it normally would.
Over the past month, only 30mm of rain was recorded in Martinborough, and 37mm in Masterton.
“It’s been dry for those areas for sure,” Meyers said.
The direction of the winds during the El Niño weather pattern means that hot air travels across the Pacific Ocean from Australia, where current temperatures in Brisbane on the eastern coast of Queensland have exceeded 30C.
Meyers warns that these temperatures, aside from contributing to a higher fire risk, can also be dangerous to people and animals.
“Make sure you check on elderly relatives and friends,” he said.
Meyers also highlighted “simple” things like being careful where people walk their dogs as the footpaths can heat up and hurt animals’ feet.
“And don’t leave anything in cars that you care about,” he said, because the soaring temperatures turn the inside of parked vehicles into “greenhouses”.