All aspects of the climate of Canterbury are dominated by the influence of the Southern Alps on the prevailing westerly airflows.

Five main climate zones can be distinguished:

  1. The plains, with prevailing winds from the northeast and south-west, low rainfall, and a relatively large annual temperature range by New Zealand standards.
  2. The eastern foothills and southern Kaikouras, with cooler and wetter weather, and a high frequency of north-westerlies.
  3. The high country near the main divide, with prevailing north-west winds, abundant precipitation, winter snow and some glaciers particularly towards the south.
  4. Banks Peninsula and the coastal strip north of Amberley, with relatively mild winters, and rather high annual rainfall with a winter maximum.
  5. The inland basins and some sheltered valleys, where rainfall is low with a summer maximum, and diurnal and annual temperature ranges are large.

Although north-westerlies are not frequent on the plains they are an important consideration for the agricultural sector, due to the exceptional evaporation that occurs on north-westerly days. Irrigation is necessary in most parts of the plains during the growing season due to the relatively low rainfall received there.

The rather cold winter weather in Canterbury is interrupted at times by unseasonably warm days during foehn episodes. Daily maximum temperatures in summer often exceed 30°C throughout Canterbury during such foehn episodes, and on rare occasions temperatures in excess of 40°C have been recorded.

Read the report

Read the full report - The climate and weather of Canterbury - 2nd edition [PDF 6.3 MB]

Suggested citation

Macara, G.R. 2016. The climate and weather of Canterbury. NIWA Science and Technology Series 68, 44 pp.

NIWA's climatologies

A regional climatology is a summary of the typical weather and climate of a region, based on historical data observations made at climate stations located within the region. 

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Read more about NIWA's regional climatologies

Canterbury's regional climatology - the Climate and Weather of Canterbury. [NIWA]