Climate Summary for February 2016

This was the second warmest February, and second warmest of any month, on record.

This was the second warmest February, and second warmest of any month, on record.


During February 2016, strong El Niño conditions continued but weakened in the tropical Pacific. Typically, more westerly to south-westerly air flows over New Zealand are associated with El Niño. However, this was not the case this month as significant tropical activity combined with higher than normal air pressure to the east of New Zealand and lower air pressure than usual south of the country produced more northerly to north-easterly winds than normal over the North Island and more north-westerlies than normal over the South Island.

Air temperature

The increased prevalence of air flow from northerly directions during February channelled warm and humid air originating in the tropics towards New Zealand. This was the primary reason behind the humid conditions in the North Island and the exceptionally warm month for New Zealand as a whole. Remarkably, almost every climate station around the country recorded well above normal temperatures (>1.20 °C above February average) for the month. The nationwide average temperature in February 2016 was 19.5°C (2.2°C above the 1981-2010 February average from NIWA’s seven station temperature series which begins in 1909)[1].

This was the second warmest February, and second warmest of any month, on record. The warmest February and month on record is February 1998, where the mean temperature (according to the seven station series) was 19.6°C.


The moist tropical air masses (including remnants of tropical cyclones Tatiana and Winston) that affected New Zealand in February not only brought warm temperatures and high humidity, but also significant rainfall to some parts of the country. Rainfall was well above normal (>149% of February normal) in Nelson as well as parts of Northland, Auckland, the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Tasman, the West Coast and Southland. Conversely, rainfall was well below normal (<50% of February normal) for the eastern portions of Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago.

Soil moisture

As of 1 March 2016, soil moisture levels were above normal for the time of year for eastern Northland and Auckland, Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, northern Tasman, Nelson and parts of eastern Waikato and Southland. Drier than normal soils were evident in the remainder of the North Island as well as eastern parts of Canterbury and Otago.


Sunshine in February was generally above normal (110-125%) or well above normal (>125%) in the South Island and southern parts of the North Island. Below normal (75-89%) sunshine was recorded in the Bay of Plenty and parts of Waikato. In particular, Tauranga had its cloudiest February on record, with records extending back to 1933. Auckland and Northland recorded near normal February sunshine hours (90-109%).


Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 35.5°C, observed at Clyde on 3 February.
  • The lowest temperature was 1.9°C, observed at Manapouri on 10 February.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall was 331 mm, recorded at North Egmont on 17 February.
  • The highest wind gust was 148 km/hr, observed at South West Cape on 28 February.
    • Of the six main centres in February 2016, Auckland was the warmest, Dunedin was the coolest, Christchurch was the driest, Wellington was the sunniest and Tauranga was the wettest and cloudiest.
    • Of the available, regularly reporting sunshine observation sites, the sunniest four locations in 2016 so far (1 January – 29 February) were Richmond (573 hours), New Plymouth (543 hours), Blenheim (522 hours) and Masterton (517 hours).


Download the Climate Summary for February 2016 [837KB PDF]

Climate Statistics for February 2016 [72KB PDF]


For further information, please contact:

Mr Chris Brandolino Principal Scientist – Forecasting, NIWA National Climate Centre Tel. 09 375 6335, Mobile (027) 886 0014

[1] Interim value

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