March 2005

Rainfall: Above average over much of the North Island and the north and southwest of the South Island – below average in the north of the North Island

Temperature: Above average in the North Island – near average over much of the South Island

Sunshine: Above average in the north of both islands, including Buller and northern Westland – below average in the south of the North Island and southern South Island

Several destructive tornadoes

March 2005 was unsettled with above average rainfall over much of the North Island, especially Wairarapa. However, drier and sunnier than average conditions with significant soil moisture deficits occurred in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Coromandel. Significant soil moisture deficits also affected the southwest of the North Island from Wanganui to Horowhenua, and Marlborough, Canterbury and Otago until the last week of March. March was also sunnier than average in Nelson, and northern Westland. Less sunshine than normal occurred in the south of the North Island, as well as West Otago, Fiordland, and Southland. It was warmer than normal in the North Island, as well as Nelson. However, near average temperatures prevailed elsewhere. Major weather phenomenon in March were the Greymouth tornado on the 10th (one of three in New Zealand during March), which was particularly severe, and potentially hazardous fog and low cloud which closed Wellington Airport several times over the 17-22nd of March resulting in severe disruption of flights. Depressions ('lows') were often centred over central New Zealand during March, with most anticyclones ('highs') usually well away, to the west or east, of the country.


  • The highest temperature for March 2005 was 32.9°C recorded at Darfield on the 5th. The lowest temperature for the month was -3.4°C, recorded at Middlemarch on the 31st.
  • A severe tornado tracked through Greymouth on the 10th. Many buildings, houses, and dozens of motor vehicles were severely damaged by the high winds and flying debris, with estimated damages exceeding 10 million dollars. About 30 people were left homeless, and three injured. Damaging tornadoes also struck parts of Bay of Plenty on the 25th, and tornado-like winds struck Blaketown (Westland) on the 8th, damaging three properties.
  • Huge waves generated by an offshore low pressure system and strong easterlies, resulted in flooding and damage in the Hawke’s Bay coastal settlement of Haumoana on the 17th.
  • Fog and low cloud closed Wellington Airport at times over the 17-18th and 20-22nd of March resulting in the disruption of more than 500 flights affecting tens of thousands of travellers.
  • Rainfall was extremely high in Fiordland over 5-10 March, with 306 mm recorded at Milford Sound on the 5th, and 702 mm for the 6-day period.
  • Of the four main centres Auckland was easily the warmest, sunniest and driest. Rainfall was above average in Wellington and Dunedin, and below average in Auckland and Christchurch. Temperatures were above average in Auckland and near average in the three other centres. Sunshine hours were well above average in Auckland, but below average in the three other main centres.


It was unsettled with above average rainfall over much of the North Island, as well as Nelson, Marlborough, coastal Otago, Fiordland, and Western Southland. At least 300 percent of normal rainfall occurred in parts of Wairarapa (due to substantial rainfall at the end of the month). However, rainfall was well below average (less than 25 percent of normal) in much of Northland, and less than 50 percent of normal in parts of Auckland. It was also drier than average in Waikato and Coromandel.


Mean temperatures were 1.0°C or more above average in parts of Auckland, Western Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Gisborne, Manawatu, and the Kapiti coast, and also above average in most other North Island districts, as well as Nelson. Temperatures were near average elsewhere. The national average temperature for March was 16.0°C (0.3°C above normal).


Sunshine hours were above average in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Coromandel, Nelson, Buller, and northern Westland, but below average in Wairarapa, Kapiti, Wellington, West Otago, Fiordland, and Southland.

Full report

Full details of March 2005 summary.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Jim Salinger – Principal Scientist, Climate
NIWA National Climate Centre – Auckland
Phone +64 9 375 2053
[email protected]

Stuart Burgess – Climatologist
NIWA National Climate Centre – Wellington
Phone +64 4 386 0569
[email protected]

Geoff Baird – Communications Manager
Phone +64 4 386 0543
[email protected]

Acknowledgement of NIWA as the source is required.