Rain in early December meant rainfall was above average for the first time in six months in central Marlborough, but below average rainfall continued in eastern regions from Northland to Otago. In contrast it was cloudier and wetter than usual in some western districts.
Temperatures near average
Most regions had near average temperatures but it was warmer than normal in Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa, and cooler than normal in Fiordland. The highest air temperature for the month was 36.5 °C, recorded at Darfield on 31 December, the highest air temperature on record there since records began in 1939.
The national average temperature of 15.6 °C was 0.1 °C below the 1961–1990 normal.
Sunny in the east
Sunshine hours were above average in many eastern regions from Hawke’s Bay to Southland, but below average in the western North Island from Auckland to King Country.
Snow lay at the Homer Tunnel on 26 December and visitors to Whakapapa at Christmas were skiing and snowboarding.
Fog caused chaos
A warm, humid, easterly airflow cooled over cold water through Cook Strait caused persistent fog which closed Wellington Airport for most of 2–4 December, disrupting travel for thousands. Wellington also experienced significant thunderstorms, with frequent lightning, for almost an hour just after midnight on the 8th.
Percentage of average rainfall for December 2002 (recording sites shown with dots). Click to enlarge.
Difference from the average air temperature in degrees Celsius for December 2002. Click to enlarge.