Current climate: March 2016
During March 2016, El Niño conditions prevailed in the tropical Pacific but continued to weaken. Typically, more westerly to south-westerly air flows over New Zealand are associated with El Niño during the autumn season. However, this was not the case this month as significantly higher than normal pressure was present to the east of New Zealand and extended over the country. This pressure pattern produced more north-easterly winds than usual over New Zealand.
Rainfall was more than double (>200%) the March normal in Nelson and Tasman. Takaka experienced its wettest March on record. Rainfall was also well above normal (>149% of March normal) in parts of Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, western Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Whanganui, and the west coast of the South Island. Conversely, rainfall was well below normal (<50% of March normal) for southern Northland, parts of Auckland, around Hamilton, the greater Wellington region, Banks Peninsula, coastal Otago (including Dunedin), and Invercargill.
The increased prevalence of air flow from the northeast during March caused warm, tropically-derived air masses to travel over New Zealand. Most of the country, but particularly the North Island, recorded well above average (>1.20°C above March average) or above average (+0.51°C to +1.20°C above March average) temperatures for the month. Parts of Northland, Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Westland recorded more than 2.0°C above the March average. Remarkably, almost every climate station around the country recorded above average or well above average mean temperatures for March.
Sunshine was generally near normal (90-109%) for most of the country, with pockets of above normal sunshine (110-125%) in northern areas and below normal sunshine (75-89%) in western and southern parts of the South Island.
As at 1 April 2016, soil moisture levels were above normal for the time of year for parts of Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, eastern Waikato, northern Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Tasman, Fiordland, and Stewart Island. Drier than normal soils were evident for the remainder of the North Island and the eastern and southern South Island, in particular for Southland.