New Zealand’s coldest recorded temperature


New Zealand climate scientists have detected the coldest day ever recorded in New Zealand, while looking at old New Zealand temperature records being entered into the National Climate database. The new record for our lowest recorded daily minimum temperature occurred 108 years ago, at Ranfurly in Central Otago, in 1903: a shivering -25.6°C

The Tuapeka Times, 18 July 1903, reported: "It is some years now since frost of equal severity to the present has been experienced in the district."

"I was quite excited to find the record. It's like detective work," says NIWA climate scientist Ms Georgina Griffiths.

"We know the early 1900s were really cold, with extremely cold spells. We know that the climate of Central Otago is really unique – it's the only region of New Zealand with a continental climate. It's not surprising that the [new] record is from this area," says Ms Griffiths.

NIWA maintains the national climate database for New Zealand. Instrument measurements and written or oral records provide quantitative records of temperature for the past 150 years in New Zealand.

To check the accuracy of this new record low, the NIWA climate scientists looked at other meteorological data from stations in the area. They chose stations at sites with a similar typography, over a range of dates, which also experienced similar freezing cold conditions.

"It was consistent. The whole region (Southland and Central Otago) was extremely cold, with cold air trapped for days on end. The other observations support the extremes. The paper record from Ranfurly was consistent and the media reporting supports it," says Ms Griffiths.

The all-time New Zealand maximum temperature record was observed at Rangiora on 7 February 1973, a scorching 42.4oC. On the same day, the North Island record maximum temperature was also observed (at Ruatoria, 39.2oC).

All of the climate extremes observed around New Zealand can be found at: 

Georgina Griffiths discovers coldest recorded temperature