Climate Summary for December 2012

Warm December with several temperature records broken.

Temperature 

Above average December temperatures for all of New Zealand, particularly throughout the North Island.

Rainfall 

Wetter than normal in the Far North, Fiordland and Stewart Island. Much drier than normal in eastern North Island, South Canterbury and Otago.

Sunshine

A very sunny month for the South Island and eastern North Island. Cloudy for the northern half of the North Island.

Soil moisture

At the end of December, soils were much drier than usual in Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, coastal Waikato, Nelson, parts of Canterbury and central Southland.     


Overview

It was a warm month, with more frequent northerly and northwest winds than usual affecting New Zealand. On 6 December, a tornado struck west Auckland and the North Shore. The wind brought down trees and flung them over the motorway, along with panels ripped from beside the motorway. Three people were killed by falling slabs of concrete at a construction site.

Well above average temperatures (greater than 1.2°C above the December average) were observed over much of the North Island, as well as around Nelson and parts of eastern South Island, resulting in several December temperature records or near-records (see full report for details). The remainder of the country experienced above average temperatures (between 0.5 and 1.2°C above average). The nation-wide average temperature in December 2012 was 16.7°C (1.1°C above the 1971-2000 December average), using NIWA's seven-station temperature series which begins in 1909.

Rainfall for December was above normal in the extreme north and south of the country. Less than 50 percent of normal rainfall for December fell in Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa, Nelson and much of Canterbury, Otago and central Southland. For other areas, rainfall was close to normal.

At the end of December, soils were much drier than usual in Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, coastal Waikato, Nelson, parts of Canterbury and central Southland. In contrast, soils were wetter than usual in Northland. Elsewhere, soil moisture levels were close to normal for the time of year.

It was a very sunny December for the South Island and eastern North Island (with sunshine totals greater than 120 percent of December normal). In contrast, below normal sunshine totals were recorded for the northern half of the North Island (between 75 and 90 percent of December normal). Near normal sunshine totals were generally observed elsewhere.

Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 34.5°C, observed at Gisborne on 19 December.
  • The lowest temperature was -1.7°C, recorded at Motu on 1 December.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall experienced was 319 mm at Milford Sound on 31 December.
  • The highest gust recorded was 206 km/hr at Cape Turnagain, on 2 December.
  • Of the six main centres in December 2012, Christchurch was the driest and sunniest, Hamilton the wettest and cloudiest, Dunedin the coolest; and Tauranga the warmest.

Full report

Full details of the December 2012 climate summary (PDF 1 MB)

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for December 2012 (PDF 78 KB)

For further information, please contact:

Dr Andrew Tait
Climate Scientist - NIWA National Climate Centre, Wellington
Tel. 04 386 0562
Mobile 027 327 7948