New Zealand Climate

Settled, dry and sunny

New Zealand’s climate during March was dominated by anticyclonic conditions, bringing unusually dry and sunny weather to most areas apart from the north of the country. For many localities it was a continuation of already unusually dry summer conditions.

Lower than usual pressures to the north of the country strengthened northeasterly air flow over New Zealand with resulting high rainfalls in North Auckland, Auckland, Coromandel, and Gisborne. Dry conditions in parts of Canterbury were alleviated by rainfall at the end of the month.

In contrast, rainfall was less than a quarter of average in much of Otago, and less than half average in many other areas.

Warmest month in 2003

Much of the country recorded higher than normal air temperatures, particularly in the Southern Lakes district and Central Otago. Overall, New Zealand was warmer in March than in January or February, with the late onset of summer-like conditions

The high March temperatures were matched by higher than normal radiation and hours of bright sunshine.

Record conditions

A mark of the unusual variability of the climate in March was the number of new observation records set at many sites. Monthly extremes were surpassed for high rainfall (Kaitaia, Kaikohe), low rainfall (East Taratahi, Queenstown, Clyde), high sunshine hours (Paraparaumu, Kelburn, Arapito, Musselburgh), high solar radiation (Palmerston North, Levin, Wanganui) and high mean air temperature (Farewell Spit, Wanaka, Queenstown, Lauder, Clyde).

Percentage of average rainfall for March 2003 (recording sites shown with dots). Click to enlarge.

Difference from the average air temperature in degrees Celsius for March 2003. Click to enlarge.