The climate of Christmases past – Soggy Santa least likely in Wellington and Christchurch


If history is anything to go by, Wellington and Christchurch are the main centres most likely to experience a dry Christmas Day, while Auckland and Hamilton are the least likely. That’s according to a new climate study undertaken by NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll.

Mr Noll analysed data from the last 30 Christmases, and discovered that the capital city and Christchurch have both experienced just 4 wet Christmas Days during that period – an average of one every 7.5 years.

What’s more, Wellington hasn’t suffered a wet Christmas since 2002 – or 15 years – the longest streak of any main centre.

15 years since last wet Wellington Christmas


Meanwhile rain has dampened yuletide celebrations in Auckland and Hamilton on 11 occasions, in Tauranga on 8, and in Dunedin on 6, during the last 30 years. 

15 years since last wet Wellington Christmas


“That might come as a surprise to some people,” Mr Noll said.

“There’s a perception that Christmas in New Zealand is more often soggy than dry.

“We call Christmas ‘wet’ if 1mm or more of rain falls in the 24 hours beginning at 9am on the 25th and ending at 9am on the 26th,” he explained.

Looking further back in time, Christchurch holds the dubious distinction of experiencing the wettest Christmas Day on record of any main centre. Back in 1909, a whopping 59.7mm fell.

The wettest Christmas Day on record in the main centres
(9am 25th December to 9am 26th December) 


24.4 mm (1987)


47.0 mm (1926)


37.8 mm (1968)


48.6 mm (1973)


59.7 mm (1909)


33.3 mm (1969)

“Of course, history is useful for showing us patterns but it doesn’t tell us exactly what Christmas Day 2017 will be like in the main centres,” Mr Noll said. “The NIWA Weather team is keeping a close eye on atmospheric developments, and we’ll be letting everyone know how things are shaping up for the big day just as soon as we can.”



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Archived on 9 April 2019