Thursday, 8 January 2004
Many extreme events
Record low rainfall and cool in parts of Otago; wet in Coromandel
Record sunshine in the South Island and in the lower North Island
A cocktail of severe weather events and climate extremes involving very dry autumn conditions in many areas, extensive flooding and late snow storms made 2003 a very notable year climatically, says Senior Climate Scientist Dr Jim Salinger of the NIWA National Climate Centre. Overall the year featured many new climate records and weather extremes. Analysis showed new records set in many months for rainfall, temperature and sunshine.
Dr Salinger said, “One of the most notable climate extremes and events was the very dry period from January through early May in the southwest of the North Island and eastern regions of both islands, re-appearing in many eastern regions at the end of the year. There was a remarkably mild start to winter with the warmest June on record, followed by a very frosty July, and late frosts in October. Of the five snowfall events to low levels, heavy snow in early July in the eastern South Island and the North Island high-country caused power cuts, closed airports and left many travellers stranded. There was also snowfall to the South Island hill country in October with thousands of newborn lambs lost to exposure.” For the year, there were at least 20 heavy rainfall events, of which nine produced floods, mainly in the North Island. The event producing the Paekakariki landslides in early October caused $2.5 million of damage. Of the five extreme wind events, six trucks were blown over along with property damage during the severe northwesterly gales that affected central and eastern New Zealand on 18 September, along with a few destructive tornadoes on the West Coast. A boy was injured when struck by lightning, and there were also two severe hailstorms with hailstones the size of golf balls. “Not a month went by without something of note”, said Dr Salinger.
Easterlies were more frequent than normal from January to April, while north westerlies and settled conditions were more prevalent from May to August. Changeable west to southwesterlies predominated over the remainder of the year. Seas around New Zealand were warmer than normal until October, then trended to cooler than normal by December. NIWA analyses of month-by-month records and preliminary end of year data show:
- The year’s national average temperature was 12.7°C (0.1°C above the 1971–2000 normal).
- The highest annual mean temperature recorded for the year was 16.4°C recorded at Mokohinau Island.
- The highest recorded extreme air temperature for the year was 36.0°C recorded at Middlemarch on 31 December.
- A late-summer heat wave occurred over the lower North Island, with new record maximum temperatures for any time of the year being recorded of 29.6°C at Paraparaumu on 28 February and 31.0°C at Levin on 2 March.
- The South Island and lower North Island had a very sunny year, with Wellington, Hokitika and Dunedin recording their sunniest year on record. Nelson’s total of 2707 hours is the 2nd highest annual value on record for any centre in New Zealand.
- June 2003 was the warmest in more than 150 years of measurement for New Zealand overall, with temperatures 2°C above average.
- The lowest air temperature for the year was –14.8°C, recorded at Tekapo on 13 July. This was Tekapo’s 2nd equal lowest July air temperature on record (measurements commenced in 1925).
- The driest rainfall recording locations were Alexandra with 264.0 mm, followed closely by Lauder in Central Otago with a record low 264.2 mm of rain for the year.
- Christchurch was the driest of the four main centres with 459 mm and Auckland the wettest with 1345 mm. Wellington received 1040 mm and Dunedin 533 mm.
- Of the regularly reporting gauges, the Cropp River gauge in Westland, inland in the headwaters of the Hokitika River, recorded the highest rainfall with an annual total of 9301 mm.
- Christchurch was the sunniest of the four main centres with 2362 sunshine hours, followed by Wellington (2271 hours), and Auckland (2047 hours). Dunedin recorded 1971 hours. Nelson was the sunniest centre in 2003 with 2707 hours, followed by Blenheim with 2663 hours, and Appleby (near Nelson) with 2652 hours.
- Invercargill recorded five months with significantly above average sunshine in February, March, June, August, and October.
- The highest recorded wind gust for the year was 183 km/h at South West Cape (Stewart Island) on 16 November, with hurricane force northerlies and mean speeds as high as 132 km/h.
For further information, please contact:
Dr Jim Salinger, NIWA – Auckland,
Tel (09) 375 2053 (Business) or (09) 527 3939 (after hours), Mobile 025 540 707
Prevailing climate patterns
Extremely low rainfall and cool in Otago; wet in Coromandel
Above average sunshine over the South Island and lower North Island
Overall, more northeasterlies occurred over the North Island, and more westerlies over southern New Zealand. Anticyclones (‘highs’) were more prevalent, leading to the sunnier, but drier conditions. The year began with more frequent easterlies over the North Island with anticyclones to the southwest from January through April. A change occurred to more frequent but settled north westerlies from May through August, then changeable west-to-southwesterlies predominated for the remainder of the year. These patterns resulted from a mix of climatic events throughout the year. Although neutral conditions in the tropical Pacific occurred for much of the year, seas around New Zealand remained warmer than normal over the autumn and winter periods. Seas cooled in spring with temperatures trending below average by December.
Extremely low rainfall in otago; wetter in the Coromandel Peninsula
2003 was the driest year on record at many Otago sites. Rainfall was also well below average in north Canterbury, and central Marlborough, with totals less than 75 percent of normal. Totals were 75 to 90 percent of average in Horowhenua, Kapiti, Buller, and Westland. Rainfall in the Coromandel Peninsula exceeded 110 percent of normal. Rainfall was near normal elsewhere.
Extremes of annual rainfall for the year 2003 were measured at:
|Location||2003 rainfall (mm)||Percentage of normal||Year records began||Comments|
|Paraparaumu Airport||823||79||1945||4th lowest|
|Tara Hills, Omarama||378||69||1950||Lowest|
|Dunedin Airport||467||71||1963||3rd lowest|
|Dunedin, Musselburgh||533||68||1918||4th lowest|
Of the four main centres, Christchurch was the driest with 459 mm (71% of average) and Auckland the wettest with 1345 mm (104% of average). Wellington received 1040 mm (82%) and Dunedin 533 mm (68%). Alexandra, Central Otago, was the driest of the sites where NIWA measured rainfall, with only 264.0 mm (76% of average), followed by Lauder in Central Otago with 264.2 mm (53% of average). Of the regularly reporting rainfall stations, the wettest location in 2003 (for which rainfall data are presently available) was the Cropp River gauge in Westland, inland in the headwaters of the Hokitika River, with an annual total of 9301 mm.
Cool in Central Otago
The 2003 national average temperature, calculated by NIWA, was 12.7°C, which was 0.1°C above the 1971–2000 normal. For New Zealand as a whole, three months were close to the climatological average (August, September and December), three months were warmer (March, May and June – of which June was the warmest on record), and six cooler (January, February, April, July, October and November). The warmest locale overall was Mokohinau Island, with a mean temperature for the year of 16.4°C (+0.3°C above average). 2003 mean temperatures were at least 0.3°C above average in Auckland, Coromandel, Waikato, coastal Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Golden Bay, and Nelson, but at least 0.3°C below average in coastal Wairarapa, and Central Otago.
Very high mean temperatures for the year 2003 were measured at:
|Location||Mean temperature (°C)||Departure from normal||Year records began||Comments|
|Farewell Spit||14.4||+1.0||1972||Equal highest|
Exceptionally sunny over the South Island, and in the lower North Island
The year was exceptionally sunny over much of the South Island, with record values recorded in at Nelson Airport, and in Hokitika and Dunedin. Wellington also recorded its sunniest year on record. Totals were close to or more than 115 percent of normal in Nelson, Westland, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland. It was also sunnier than normal in Kapiti. Sunshine hours were near normal in all other regions.Nelson was the sunniest centre in 2003, recording 2707 hours, followed by Blenheim with 2663 hours, then Appleby, near Nelson with 2652 hours. Nelson’s total of 2707 hours is the 2nd highest annual value on record for any centre in New Zealand. The highest value is 2711 recorded at Nelson in 1931. Total sunshine hours for the year 2003 in selected main centres were:
|Location||2003 sunshine (hours)||Normal (hours)||Departure from normal||Comments|
Extremes of annual sunshine hours for the year 2003 were measured at:
|Location||2003 sunshine (hours)||Percentage of normal||Year records began||Comments|
Significant weather and climate events – 2003
Three warmer months, six cooler
For New Zealand as a whole, there were three warmer than average months (March, May and June) and six cooler than average months (January, February, April, July, October and November). Some highlights were:
- Late-summer heat wave
A late-summer heat wave occurred over the lower North Island, with Paraparaumu recording 29.6°C on 28 February, a new record high temperature at that station for any time of the year in records going back to 1953. On 2 March, Levin recorded 31.0°C, a new record high temperature for any time of the year in records dating back to 1896.
- Warmest June on record
Only June 1971 (10.2°C) was anywhere near as warm. Temperatures reached more than 3°C above normal in some inland sheltered areas of the eastern South Island. The June national average temperature of 10.3°C was 2.0°C above normal, the highest since reliable measurements commenced in the 1850s. Above average sea surface temperatures around much of New Zealand, especially to the north and west, contributed to the anomalously warm land temperatures.
- End of year heat wave
The highest December 2003 temperature was 36.0°C, recorded at Middlemarch on the 31st; the highest December temperature on record in the Middlemarch area, and equal highest for December for the Otago region (36.0°C at Alexandra in December 1988).
Unusually high mean monthly temperatures in 2003 were recorded at:
|Location||Mean temperature||Departure (°C)||Records began||Comments|
|Palmerston North Airport||18.3||+1.9||1962||3rd equal highest|
|Nelson Airport||11.7||+1.8||1943||2nd equal highest|
|Hanmer Forest||9.6||+2.2||1906||2nd highest|
|Auckland, Mangere||13.6||+2.2||1853||2nd highest|
|Hamilton, Ruakura||11.6||+2.3||1907||2nd highest|
|Paeroa||12.2||+2.3||1947||3rd equal highest|
|Tauranga Airport||12.5||+2.2||1913||2nd highest|
|New Plymouth Airport||12.2||+2.1||1944||3rd highest|
|Gisborne Airport||12.1||+2.2||1905||2nd highest|
|Napier, Nelson Park||12.4||+2.9||1870||2nd highest|
|Palmerston N. Airport||11.1||+2.7||1962||Equal highest|
|Farewell Spit||12.5||+2.8||1971||Equal highest|
|Milford Sound||7.7||+2.0||1935||2nd highest|
|Nelson Airport||9.7||+2.3||1943||3rd highest|
|Christchurch Airport||8.0||+1.9||1954||Equal highest|
|Christchurch Gardens||8.7||+2.0||1864||3rd highest|
|Tara Hills, Omarama||6.1||+3.9||1950||Highest|
|Dunedin, Musselburgh||8.5||+1.4||1853||3rd highest|
Unusually high mean daily maximum temperatures in 2003 were recorded at:
|Location||Mean daily maximum temperature||Departure (°C)||Records began||Comments|
|East Taratahi||24.1||+2.5||1973||2nd equal highest|
|Paraparaumu Airport||22.2||+1.9||1953||2nd highest|
|Palmerston North Airport||24.5||+3.0||1962||2nd highest|
|Hanmer Forest||23.7||+3.0||1906||2nd highest|
|Manapouri airport||19.9||+1.9||1991||2nd highest|
|Tauranga Airport||13.3||+1.4||1913||3rd highest|
|Whakatane Airport||12.8||+1.6||1975||2nd highest|
|Gisborne Airport||13.3||+1.6||1905||3rd equal highest|
|Napier Airport||13.2||+1.7||1974||2nd highest|
Extremes of maximum temperature in 2003 were recorded at:
|Location||Maximum temperature (°C)||Records began||Date of occurrence||Comments|
|Napier||26.5||1868||26th||3rd highest, highest since 1955|
Unusually low mean monthly temperatures in 2003 were recorded at:
|Location||Mean temperature||Departure (°C)||Records began||Comments|
|Blenheim Airport||11.8||–1.5||1941||3rd lowest|
|Christchurch Airport||10.2||–1.9||1954||3rd lowest|
Unusually low monthly mean daily minimum temperatures were recorded at:
|Location||Mean daily minimum temperature||Departure (°C)||Records began||Comments|
|East Taratahi||0.0||–2.7||1972||2nd lowest|
|Westport Airport||3.0||–1.5||1937||3rd equal lowest|
|Blenheim Airport||-0.3||–1.7||1941||3rd equal lowest|
|Christchurch Airport||-0.9||–1.7||1954||3rd equal lowest|
There were a number of periods during the year with severe or damaging frosts.
- 22 February
On some farms in parts of Hawke’s Bay, south of Hastings, as much as 50 percent of squash crops were severely damaged by ground frost in parts of Hawke’s Bay, south of Hastings, which were much earlier than normal.
Severe overnight ground frosts occurred in many eastern South Island areas after the 10th, with –15.9°C recorded in Mt Cook Village on the 18th. Christchurch Airport recorded grass minima of –10.4°C on the 17th, and –10.7°C on the 26th, both breaking the previous all time record there, in measurements that began in 1954.
The lowest air temperature for the year was –14.8°C, recorded at Tekapo on the 13th. This was Tekapo’s 2nc equal lowest July air temperature on record (measurements commenced in 1925). July was frostier than normal in many areas, especially in the south and west of the North Island, including the Central Plateau, and parts of the north and east of the South Island. The frostiest periods, often with severe ground frost, occurred on July 6, 7, 12–14 and 20–26. Severe ground frost (–6.0°C or lower) occurred somewhere in New Zealand on most days of the month.
- 14 and 24 August
Severe overnight ground frosts occurred at Ettrick (–12.2°C) on the 14th, and of –10 to –12°C in several inland areas of Canterbury (Mt Cook Village) and Otago (Ranfurly) on the 24th.
Record lows of minimum air temperature in 2003 were measured at:
|Location||Minimum temperature (°C)||Date of occurrence||Records began||Comments|
|Ohakune, Ruapehu College||–0.6||22nd||1994||Lowest|
|Masterton, Te Ore Ore||0.5||22nd||1993||Lowest|
|Te Puke||0.0||6th||1973||2nd lowest|
|Gisborne Airport||–0.4||6th||1905||2nd equal lowest|
|Rotorua Airport||–1.9||6th||1964||2nd lowest|
|Palmerston N. Airport||–1.6||6th||1963||3rd lowest|
Record low grass minimum temperatures were measured at:
|Location||Grass minimum temperature (°C)||Date of occurrence||Records began|
|Ohakune, Ruapehu College||–3.0||22nd||1994|
|Masterton, Te Ore Ore||–1.5a||22nd||1993|
|Christchurch Airport||–10.4 / –10.7||17th / 26th||1954|
|Christchurch Airport||–10.3 / –11.5||7th / 13th||1954|
|Mt. Cook Village||–9.6||6th||1931|
a equal lowest
Well above average numbers of days with July ground frost were recorded at:
|Location||Days with ground frost||Departure from normal||Year records began||Comments|
|Levin||22||+10||1921||2nd equal highest, most since July 1971|
|Christchurch Airport||25||+6||1954||2nd equal highest|
|Christchurch Gardens||27||+8||1864||2nd equal highest. Highest since 1952|
There were several periods with snowfall, between July and November, two of which occurred to low levels in the South Island.
- 4–5 July
A very cold southerly outbreak brought significant snowfall to sea level in the eastern South Island over the 4th and 5th of July, with heavy snowfall settling down to 300–500 m in the central and eastern North Island on the 5th. Snow flurries occurred to sea level in parts of the western north Island, and also in the east as far north as Napier. Snow settled to depths of 50 cm in the western Hawke’s Bay high-country, 30 cm in the Gisborne high-country, 30 cm in the Manawatu about and east of the Gorge, 35 cm on the Rimutaka Summit Road north of Wellington, 20–35 cm in inland Canterbury, and 10 cm in some inland areas of south Taranaki and Southland, with a few centimetres to sea level in many eastern South Island districts. Snow-covered roads were treacherous, leaving most high-country roads closed. Numerous motorists and travellers were stranded, especially on the Desert Road (where some truck drivers stayed overnight in their cabs) and at Norsewood. Power was cut to more than 10,000 homes in the central and eastern North Island at the height of the storm, and many rural schools in both islands were closed. Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown airports were closed at times during the event, because of icy runways. South Island maximum temperatures ranged from just 1 to 5°C in many eastern areas south of Kaikoura.
- 11–13 and 20–22 August
Cold southeasterlies brought snowfall settling down to 400-500 m in Canterbury and Otago from the 11th–13th, and 20th–22nd.
- 28 September
Cold southeasterlies affected Canterbury on the 28th, with snow depths of about 30 cm settling down to 400 m. Some lambs died of exposure. Snowfall was up to 50 cm deep on the Lewis, Porters, and Burkes Pass roads
- 4–5 October
Snow fell on the Rimutaka and Orongorongo Ranges, and settled down to 800 m on the central North Island plateau, with flurries in Taihape, Taumarunui, and the Wellington hill suburbs of Brooklyn, Karori and Broadmeadows. On the 5th, snow fell down to 200 m in the South Island high country of Canterbury, Otago, and Southland, where thousands of newborn lambs died of exposure. Snow depths of 20–40 cm were reported near the Canterbury foothills, with 10 cm depths in many other inland areas. Part of SH1 north of Dunedin was closed by 10–15 cm of snow.
- 13–14 and 27 November
Snow settled on the Rimutaka Road down to Kaitoke, north of Wellington over the 13th and 14th.
Record low monthly rainfall and low soil moisture levels
It was dry over much of the country. Rainfall was less than half of normal in the southwest of the North Island and Hawke’s Bay, and about a quarter in the Horowhenua. Half normal rainfall also occurred in central Marlborough. As a consequence significant soil moisture deficits developed in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, the Manawatu and Horowhenua, and persisted in Marlborough.
Waikato, Taranaki, and Nelson all received less than a quarter (25 percent) of their normal February rainfall, while less than half (50 percent) of normal rain fell in northwestern parts of Northland, and most central and south western North Island areas. Totals were less than 75 percent of average in southern Wairrarapa, north Canterbury, and west Otago. Significant soil moisture deficits affected a substantial proportion of the country. In Hawke’s Bay, some farmers carted in water and bought extra feed or used supplements. For much of the month, the dry conditions resulted in total fire bans in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, and Bay of Plenty, with restrictions applied in most other areas of New Zealand. Inadequate rainfall meant that significant soil moisture deficits persisted in most eastern regions from Gisborne to Central Otago, as well as in Nelson, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, and Horowhenua, and affected most other North Island regions for most of the month. In eastern Northland, and Coromandel, it was extremely dry in February until the 25th, with some locations recording less than 10 mm up until that date.
Very little rainfall occurred at many locations in the south and west of the North Island, from Wanganui to Wellington, and throughout much of Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago, until after the 27th. Until then, most stations in these regions recorded totals of 10 mm or less. Christchurch Airport and Lauder had no measurable rainfall in this period. Parts of Manawatu, Horowhenua, and Kapiti had not had a day’s rainfall exceeding 10 mm since Christmas or before. Substantial rainfall, totalling 50–90 mm, occurred throughout north Canterbury from the 28–30. For the month, rainfall was less than 25 percent of normal in Central Otago, and less than 50 percent of average at most locations in the southern half of the North Island and over much of the South Island. Significant soil moisture deficits continued throughout the north and east of the South Island, from Nelson to Otago, as well as the southwest North Island from Wanganui to Wellington, and Wairarapa. End-of-month rainfall resulted in major relief for Nelson and north Canterbury soils.
Extremely low rainfall, about 33 percent of normal, occurred in most of the South Island west coast and some alpine areas. It was also dry, with rainfall less than 50 percent of normal, in most other western regions from Waikato to Fiordland, as well as in central Wairarapa, Wellington, central Marlborough, Otago and Southland. Totals were also below normal in south Auckland, Taranaki, and King Country. Significant soil moisture deficits continued throughout the east of the South Island, from south Canterbury to Central Otago, as well as in the southwest North Island from Wanganui to the Kapiti coast.
Significant soil moisture deficits continued in Marlborough, north and Central Otago. However, more regular rainfall brought relief to other eastern South Island regions, as well as the southwestern North Island.
Soil moisture deficits increased throughout Otago and South Canterbury, being significant in some inland areas. Deficits also appeared in Marlborough, and Hawke’s Bay.
Soil moisture deficits spread to north Canterbury and Gisborne, and increased throughout Otago, inland South Canterbury, central Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay where they were significant in some areas.
Soil moisture deficits were severe throughout Otago, Canterbury and central Marlborough; and significant in the Wairarapa, Nelson and parts of Northland.
Some locations measured record low rainfall at various times during the year. These were:
|Location||Rainfall (mm)||Percentage of normal||Year records began||Comments|
|Palmerston North||21||33||1928||3rd lowest|
|Cape Reinga||8||13||1920||Well below average|
|Kawerau||33||27||1955||2nd equal lowest|
|Port Taharoa||20||29||1985||2nd lowest|
|New Plymouth Airport||15||15||1944||3rd lowest|
|Nelson Airport||5||9||1941||3rd lowest|
|Chatham Island||17||30||1951||3rd lowest|
|Invercargill Airport||33||35||1940||3rd lowest|
|Nugget Point||20||24||1930||3rd lowest|
|Levin||21||28||1896||3rd equal lowest|
|Paraparaumu Airport||17||21||1945||3rd lowest|
|Westport Airport||48||25||1944||2nd lowest|
|Hokitika Airport||77||33||1964||2nd lowest|
|Milford Sound||216||38||1930||2nd lowest|
|Mt Cook Village||74||22||1930||2nd lowest|
|Motueka, Riwaka||21||13||1943||3rd lowest|
|Nelson Airport||9||10||1941||2nd lowest|
|Nelson, Appleby||9||9||1932||3rd equal lowest|
|Timaru Airport||8||17||1957||2nd equal lowest|
|Matamata, Hinuera||46||35||1966||2nd lowest|
|Hamilton, Ruakura||45||39||1905||2nd equal lowest|
|Palmerston N. Airport||20||25||1943||Lowest|
|Wanganui||20||28||1890||3rd equal lowest|
|Mokohinau Island||15||26||1934||2nd lowest|
|Le Bons Bay||6||10||1990||Lowest|
Floods and high rainfall
There were at least 20 heavy rainfall events during 2003, of which nine produced floods, mainly in the North Island. The event that produced the Paekakariki landslides in early October was the most destructive.
- 8–9 January
High rainfall, totalling 100–200 mm, was recorded throughout eastern Northland, Coromandel, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty between the 4th and 10th. The wettest days were the 8th and 9th, when many locations recorded between 60 and 120 mm. The rainfall was also accompanied by wind, and resulted in surface flooding in these regions, especially on the Coromandel, creating washouts in holiday parks, disrupting the plans of many campers.
- 27 February
- High rainfall occurred in eastern Northland, Coromandel, and Eastland toward the end of the month, and some houses in Paeroa were evacuated as a result of flooding on the 27th. Some rainfall totals were:
Location Rainfall total (mm) Date of occurrence Whitianga Airport 123 25–26 Feb. Paeroa 280 26–27 Feb. Hicks Bay 191 26–27 Feb.
- 9–12 and 27–28 March
Heavy rainfall occurred in the Bay of Islands, parts of Auckland, Coromandel, and areas of Gisborne during the second week of the month, and in Northland during the last week. Surface flooding occurred in parts of Northland and Auckland on the 27th and 28th, being widespread in Kaitaia. Rainfall totals recorded for these events were:
Location Rainfall total (mm) Date of occurrence Kerikeri Airport 178 9–10 Mar. Owairaka, Auckland 129 10–11 Mar. Whitianga Airport 108 10–11 Mar. Gisborne Airport 83 11–12 Mar. Kaitaia 151 27 Mar. Kerikeri Airport 116 27 Mar. Kaikohe 126 27 Mar.
- 5–6 and 19–20 April
Significant rainfall (at least 50 mm) occurred throughout Nelson on the 5th, and in Bay of Plenty, the Gisborne high country, and Canterbury on the 6th. Widespread surface flooding was reported throughout Nelson after 20–30 mm of rain fell in an hour in the evening. Kawerau recorded torrential rainfall totalling 142.2 mm in 6 hours during the afternoon on the 6th, at rates up to 39 mm per hour. At Paengaroa (southeast of Te Puke) an unofficial rainfall total of 278 mm on the 6th was measured. High rainfall (more than 100 mm in places) and surface flooding occurred in Northland and Coromandel townships on the 19th and 20th. At least 15 houses were affected in Coromandel township.
- 1–2 and 21–24 May
Heavy rainfall with northerlies occurred in the Southern Alps on the 1st, totalling about 180 mm at nearby Mt. Cook Village and Arthurs Pass. The same trough produced significant rainfall (at least 75 mm) in and north of the Bay of Islands on the 2nd, with 110 mm recorded at Kaitaia Airport. Another northerly event occurred later in the month, with rainfall totals of at least 75 mm (and almost 100 mm in parts of the Bay of Islands) affecting Northland, King Country, and Tongariro on the 21st. Easterlies resulted in rainfall totalling almost 100 mm in parts of Hawke’s Bay over the 23rd–24th.
- 3, 8–9 and 28–30 June
High rainfall occurred in Manawatu and Nelson on the 3rd, and was widespread over much of the North Island over the 8th and 9th (with surface flooding in Auckland and Hamilton) and again between the 15th and 17th. Floods and land slips occurred in the Golden Bay-Nelson region during high rainfall (100 mm or more) over the 28th and 29th (207 mm at Takaka and 170 mm at Appleby). High rainfall occurred in Wellington on the 30th, with surface flooding in places.
- 21–22 August
Heavy rainfall occurred in Northland, Coromandel and along the southern Wairarapa coast over the 21st–22nd August. Whitianga Airport recorded rainfall totalling 109 mm for the 24 hours to 2 am on the 21st. Palliser, Ngawihi recorded rainfall of 105 mm for the 24 hours to 2 am on the 22nd.
- 1, 3, 13 and 27–29 September
Heavy rainfall totalling at least 70 mm occurred over the central North Island, including Taranaki on the 1st. Other heavy rainfall events occurred in Golden Bay on the 3rd and 13th, with about 70 mm. A depression produced high rainfall over the North Island from the 27th–28th, with 1-day falls totalling at least 70 mm in Taranaki, Tongariro, and the Gisborne high-country. Parts of Taranaki recorded more than 100 mm of rainfall in the 12 hours to noon on the 27th. There were numerous reports of surface flooding and heavy rainfall throughout the North Island, which contributed to isolated landslides and treacherous driving conditions for many motorists. The same depression produced westerly gales and close to 100 km/h wind gusts in Auckland and parts of Bay of Plenty on the 28th and 29th. Some power lines were blown down. In Whangamata (Coromandel), a boy suffered burns, damage to sight and hearing loss after being struck by lightning on the 28th.
- 3–4 and 11–12 October
High-intensity rainfall associated with the approach of an active frontal system occurred on 3 October, after weeks of wet weather, contributing to a huge land and mudslide across SH1 at Paekakariki. Exceptionally high 48-hour rainfall totals in excess of 200–300 mm were recorded in the Tararua Ranges over 3–4 October. Other high rainfall totals, exceeding 100 mm, recorded during the event of 3 October were:
Location Rainfall (mm) Motu 177 Taumarunui 101 Stratford 116 Paekakariki Hill 119 Wallaceville 108
This storm resulted in the closure of SH1 and main trunk railway north of Wellington. Other routes out of Wellington were also closed, with the cancellation of two inter-island ferry crossings. In the north, a woman was swept downstream in a flooded ford near Coroglen (in the Coromandel) on the 4th. A state of emergency was declared in Paekakariki as sewage and contaminated mud and water (up to waist-deep) spread through houses, of which more than 20 houses were evacuated, and 8 left uninhabitable. Almost every business in Paekakariki was flooded, and several cars were covered by mud and rubble. Ten thousand cu m of gravel poured down Paekakariki Hill during the event. Initial damages caused by the event were estimated to be at least $2.5 million for Paekakariki and another $3 million for the remainder of New Zealand. Further high rainfall, totalling at least 70 mm occurred in Northland on the 11 October, followed by rainfall totalling about 100 mm in eastern Bay of Plenty, the Gisborne high country and coastal areas of southern Wairarapa on the 12th.
- 22 and 26 November
Heavy rainfall, totalling 353 mm, was recorded at Milford Sound for the 48 hours to 9am on the 22nd. High rainfall totalling 60–100 mm occurred in Waikato, the Gisborne high country, and coastal Wairarapa on the 26th, and in Motueka on the 27th.
- 5 December
Milford Sound recorded rainfall totalling 260 mm.
Some locations experienced unusually high rainfall at various times during the year. These were:
|Location||Rainfall (mm)||Percentage of normal for the month||Year records began||Comments|
|Kerikeri Airport||395||237||1978||2nd highest|
|Le Bons Bay||163||187||1984||Highest|
|East Taratahi||173||194||1972||2nd highest|
|New Plymouth Airport||238||207||1944||2nd highest|
|Palmerston North Airport||149||182||1943||3rd highest|
|Palmerston North||161||201||1928||3rd highest|
|Wellington Airport||173||212||1960||2nd highest|
|Timaru Airport||89||260||1956||3rd highest|
|Oamaru Airport||82||329||1941||2nd highest|
|Hamilton Airport||185||206||1922||2nd highest|
|Rotorua Airport||231||180||1963||2nd highest|
Tornadoes, gales, high winds, and rough seas
- 17 June – tornado
High winds associated with a tornado resulted in property damage in Greymouth on the 17th.
- 9–10 June
Southerly gales buffeted Wellington over the 9th and 10th of June.
- 18 and 25 September
Gale force northwesterlies buffeted Manawatu, Wellington, Kapiti, Wairarapa, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland on the 18th, with winds gusting to 126 km/h at Paraparaumu Airport, 141 km/h at Tiwai Point, 169 km/h at Castlepoint, and 176 km/h at South West Cape. The winds lifted some roofs, smashed windows and resulted in fallen trees in parts of Wairarapa and Wellington. Airport hangars at Paraparaumu Airport also suffered damage. In the Wairarapa, six trucks were blown over by the wind, and power lines damaged. Gale force northwesterlies buffeted Wellington, Kapiti, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland on the 25th, with winds gusting to 122 km/h at Mt. Cook Village, and 135 km/h at Southwest Cape. Westerly gales and close to 100 km/h wind gusts occurred in Auckland and parts of Bay of Plenty on the 28th and 29th.
- 3 October
Gale-force northerly winds with gusts between 130 and 140 km/h in and about Cook Strait along with high seas caused the cancellation of two inter-island ferry sailings.
- 2 November – tornado
A tornado ripped off a room and blew the roof off a house in Westport at about 4am.
- 16 November
Hurricane force northerlies (with mean speeds as high as 132 km/h) gusted to 183 km/h at South West Cape (Stewart Island).
This is the second consecutive year with a person injured by lightning.
- 28 September – person struck by lightning
In Whangamata (Coromandel), a boy suffered burns, damage to sight and hearing loss after being struck by lightning.
Severe or damaging hail storms
- September – golf ball-sized hailstones
Golf ball-sized hailstones occurred at Coal Creek (Westland) on the 16th, and in Manderville (Southland) on the 26th.
Some locations experienced extremes of sunshine hours at various times during the year. March was exceptionally sunny compared with average in central and southern New Zealand. Invercargill Airport recorded five unusually sunny months. Monthly sunshine extremes for 2003 were:
|Location||Sunshine (hours)||Percentage of normal||Year records began||Comments|
|Invercargill Airport||215||134||1932||2nd highest|
|Hokitika Airport||235||145||1964||2nd highest|
|Nelson Airport||273||135||1949||2nd highest|
|Invercargill Airport||178||135||1932||2nd equal highest|
|Dunedin, Musselburgh||119||132||1948||2nd highest|
|Invercargill Airport||100||133||1932||3rd equal highest|
|Nelson Airport||195||126||1949||3rd highest|
|Invercargill Airport||161*||134||1932||3rd highest|
|Nelson Airport||284||128||1948||3rd highest|
|Hamilton, Ruakura||170||75||1936||3rd lowest|
|Christchurch Airport||274||125||1949||4th highest|
|Lake Tekapo||311||122||1928||2nd highest|
* estimated (missing 2 days)
For further information, please contact:
Dr Jim Salinger – Principal Scientist, Climate
NIWA National Climate Centre – Auckland
Phone +64 9 375 2053
Stuart Burgess – Climatologist
NIWA National Climate Centre – Wellington
Phone +64 4 386 0569
Geoff Baird – Communications Manager
Phone +64 4 386 0543
Acknowledgement of NIWA as the source is required.