Climate Summary for March 2012

National Climate Summary – March 2012:  Continuing cool.

  • Temperatures: Well below average for the south and east of the South Island, also Wellington, Wairarapa, southern Hawkes Bay, Central Plateau.  Below average elsewhere, except for near average temperatures in Westland and Fiordland.
  • Rainfall: Double March normal for Northland, north Auckland, Gisborne, southern Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa.  Wet for most other regions of the North Island, also Kaikoura, north Canterbury and Otago. In contrast, rather dry for West Coast, Fiordland, Nelson City, Christchurch, south Canterbury, between Wanganui and Palmerston North, and around Taupo. 
  • Soil moisture levels: Well above normal for much of the North Island and Otago, but closer to normal elsewhere.  Drier than usual Wanganui to Palmerston North.
  • Sunshine: Very cloudy over the north and east of North Island, as well as Nelson/Marlborough.  Extremely sunny for Otago and Southland.

March was characterised by higher pressures than usual to the east of the Chatham Islands, and more lows than normal to the north of the North Island.  This produced more easterly winds than usual over the country.  The frequent easterly winds resulted in an extremely cool March for eastern areas of both Islands, and produced wetter conditions for many areas of the North Island and some eastern South Island regions.  It was also much cloudier than usual for the northeast of the North Island, as well as the northern South Island.

Mean temperatures for March were well below average (more than 1.2°C below average) for much of the south and east of the South Island, as well as Wellington, the Wairarapa, southern Hawkes Bay, and the Central Plateau.  Elsewhere, March temperatures were generally below average (between 0.5°C and 1.2°C below average), with the exceptions of Westland and Fiordland, where near average temperatures were experienced (within 0.5°C of average). The nation-wide average temperature in March was 14.6°C (1.2°C below the 1971–2000 March average), using NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which begins in 1909. 

March rainfall totals were at least 200 percent (double) normal for Northland, north Auckland, and for eastern parts of the North Island.  It was also a wet March (with at least 120 percent of March normal) across most of the remainder of the North Island, as well as for Kaikoura, north Canterbury and Otago.  In contrast, it was rather dry for the West Coast of the South Island, Fiordland, Nelson City, Christchurch, south Canterbury, as well as between Wanganui and Palmerston North, and around Taupo. In Southland, rainfall was close to normal. Soil moisture levels at the end of March were well above normal for much of the North Island as well as in Otago, but were closer to normal elsewhere. An exception was between Wanganui and Palmerston North, where soils were somewhat drier than is usual at this time of year.

The effect of the prevailing easterly winds during March was evident in the observed sunshine totals.  It was a very cloudy month for the north and east of the North Island (Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the Wairarapa), as well as for Nelson/Marlborough.  In contrast, it was an extremely sunny March for Otago and Southland.  Sunshine hours were closer to normal elsewhere.

Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 29.2°C, observed at Timaru on 24 March. 
  • The lowest temperature was -2.6°C recorded at both Lake Pukaki (26 March) and Hanmer Forest (9 March)
  • The highest 1-day rainfall experienced was 168 mm, recorded at both North Egmont (2 March), and Kerikeri (18 March).
  • The highest gust recorded was 158 km/hr recorded at Brothers Island, Cook Strait, on 3 March.
  • Of the six main centres, Tauranga was the warmest, wettest and also the sunniest; Christchurch was the driest, Dunedin the coolest, and Wellington the cloudiest.

Full report

Full details of the March 2012 climate summary (PDF 103 KB)

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for March 2012 (PDF 82 KB)

For further information, please contact:

Ms Georgina Griffiths – Climate Scientist– NIWA National Climate Centre, Auckland,

Tel 09 375 4506, Mobile 0272 936545