Warm winter, cold summer. What’s up?

It’s been unseasonably cold in Wānaka this summer. The average maximum January temperature is six degrees higher than what we are currently experiencing. The average summer temperature for Wānaka in January is 23.8c but this week, it has hovered around 17c.

Lisa Murray, head of weather communication for Metservice said the overnight temperature in Wānaka for January, is usually 11.2c but this week has been down to 5c. 

“This week is cooler right across the country, with strong winds that have begun to ease off. 

As we go through the week, we’re into the 20s on Thursday and Friday in Wānaka, and then the overnight temperatures will also increase into the double digits. It’s not the greatest but it’s even cooler in Invercargill,” she said.  

“Looking at the next couple of weeks it’s still a really changeable pattern where we will see really cooler temperatures at times but when we get the northwesterlies it will warm us up slightly. Unfortunately it will continue for the next while.”

So after a warm winter when blossoms were peaking out in late July and the mountains had hardly any snow, is there a connection between the warm winter and cold summer?

“A warm winter and a cold summer are not necessarily tied like that,” said Murray. “We did have a mild winter but it was a really interesting year with no tropical cyclones last year which is really unusual,” she said. 

Tropical Cyclone season is November 1 to April 1 and so far there haven’t been any over NZ. “That’s not to say they’re not coming this year but it did feel milder in winter 2019.”

“We do get cycles like this every few years. If we think since 2015 we’ve just been getting warmer and warmer and summers are drier and drier. But we do find the country… from Timaru northwards and the East Coast they are way drier than normal so we are in a moisture deficit; farmers are all irrigating at this stage. Paddocks are brown, and Auckland and northland are really really dry.” 

Just because it’s cooler does not mean there’s more rain— temperature and rainfall are not connected. “Southland at the moment, has had plenty of rain — above normal rainfall — but not much sunshine so they haven’t had a good growing season. Just over the hill in Otago, the cherry growers haven’t had as much produce as normal due to lack of rain,” said Murray. 

“Climate change is not necessarily that everywhere will feel warmer and we’ll never have snow again. That’s not what climate change is about. In the terms of what we say, they’ve changed the terminology from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change’, because everybody in different parts of the world will see different changes.  

“We have the responsibility to educate ourselves and not listen to hearsay. We must seek out the facts. To get even 70 percent of scientists to agree on something is really good going but when you look at the consensus of up to 99 percent of scientists agreeing on climate change it’s time to stop worrying about whether it’s happening and just take action.” 


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