Eighties climate revival

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NIWA has updated the famous regional climate 'blue books' from the '80s – the era that brought us floppy fringes and leg warmers. 

In the 1980s, the Meteorological Service produced a series of popular books that described and detailed the climates of each region throughout New Zealand. The books can still be found, well-thumbed, in libraries, offices and council premises up and down the country.

Dr Andrew Tait, Principal Scientist, Climate at NIWA, says that after 30 years, it was time to update the regional climatology books.

"The books give a basic big picture of the typical climate of each region. They've had an exceptionally long shelf life, but it's now time to reflect the latest data."

The first book in the new series covers Hawke's Bay. The next published will be for Northland. The remaining regions, including the unitary authorities and the Chathams, will be published progressively through to June 2015.

Tait says that the blue books, named after their uniformcoloured covers, are useful as an everyday reference for local authorities, businesses and the general public.

"People use the summaries to learn more about the climate where they live or where they'd like to live. They use them to make judgements about locating commercial operations or farms. Councils use them to inform staff and others about the local climate, and to promote their region.

"The summaries give the 'big picture' about a region. They help people work out what sort of detailed information they need – which they can then find in NIWA's vast online database of climate information," he says.

Asked if it isn't a bit old-school to use printed books, Tait says it's the layout that people find so useful.

"There's been a great technological leap since the '80s. All these data are now readily available online. "The difference is that these are designed to be read, or flipped through. Whether it's printed or a PDF on the screen, people find the data more  digestible when presented like a book."

Tait stresses that the series is an update of the older books.

"We follow much the same format. All the data tables, plots and maps are updated and there is new text regarding recent events. The text and the updated data are being prepared by NIWA staff Petra Chappell, Gregor Macara and James Sturman."

Tait is particularly proud of the report layout. "Our designer, Erika Mackay, has given the format a major spruce up: lots of photos, clearer text and a more readable layout."

Funding for the project is from NIWA's core National Climate Centre funds. The reports will be made available for free to all the regional councils as digital documents (PDFs), as well as a limited print run for each region.

Tait expects the updated series to be as popular as the originals and last another 30 years.

"I expect to see these being used when I'm picking out my retirement home." 

The Climate and Weather of Taranaki provides a climatology of the region based on the latest data.