Climate Summary for January 2012

National Climate Summary – January 2012: Unusually cool.

  • Temperatures: Below average for many western regions of the North Island, as well as inland Bay of Plenty, inland Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Wairarapa, Canterbury, Fiordland, Central Otago, and much of Westland and Buller.  Near average elsewhere. Rainfall: Well below normal rainfall for Nelson, Blenheim, and Banks Peninsula. 
  • Very wet between Gore and Queenstown, as well as the southern half of North Island.  Elsewhere, rainfall totals normal or below normal. 
  • Soil Moisture: Close to normal for the time of year.
  • Sunshine: Cloudy for north and west of North Island.  Sunny for southern half of South Island.  Near normal sunshine elsewhere.

The first half of January was characterised by easterly and northerly winds, which produced wet and windy weather for areas exposed to the northeast.  In contrast, the second half of the month was very cool, with frequent southerly winds which brought unusually cool air over the country.  For the month as a whole, lower pressures than normal prevailed over New Zealand, as well as to the north and east of the country, producing a rather cool, windy, and unsettled month overall.

Below average temperatures (between 0.5°C and 1.2°C below average) were generally experienced across western regions of the North Island, as well as inland Bay of Plenty, inland Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the Wairarapa, Canterbury, and across most of Fiordland, Westland and Buller.  Elsewhere (generally in the northeast of both islands), mean temperatures for January were close to average (within 0.5°C of the January average).  The nation-wide average temperature in January was 16.4°C (0.7°C below the 1971–2000 January average), using NIWA’s seven-station temperature series which begins in 1909. 

Well below normal January rainfall totals (less than half of January normal) were observed in the greater Nelson region, as well as in Blenheim, and on Banks Peninsula. In contrast, it was an extremely wet January from Gore to Queenstown, and across much of the southern half of the North Island.  For the Hokianga, and much of Auckland, Coromandel, and the Waikato, as well as coastal Bay of Plenty, rainfall was close to normal (ranging between 80 and 119 percent of January normal).  Elsewhere, rainfall totals were mostly below normal (between 50 and 79 percent of January normal).  Soil moisture levels for most of the country were close to normal, for this time of year.  Significant soil moisture deficit (more than 110 mm of deficit) was observed by the end of January in eastern areas of the South Island, the Mackenzie basin, central Otago, and parts of the Gisborne region. 

It was a rather cloudy January for the north and west of the North Island, with below normal sunshine totals (between 75 and 90 percent of January normal).  In contrast, it was sunny over the southern half of the South Island, with above normal sunshine totals (between 110 and 125 percent of January normal).  Elsewhere, sunshine totals were generally in the near-normal range. 

Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 31.7°C, observed at Lake Pukaki on 4 January.
  • The lowest temperature was -0.9°C, recorded at Ranfurly on 3 January.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall experienced was 145 mm at Milford Sound on 31 January.
  • The highest gust recorded was 185 km/hr at the Rock and Pillar range, Central Otago, on 31 January.
  • Tauranga was the warmest and sunniest, Auckland the cloudiest, Wellington the wettest, and Christchurch the driest of the main centres.

Full report

Full details of the January 2012 climate summary (PDF 87 KB)

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for January 2012 (PDF 82 KB)

For further information, please contact:

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

Tel.  (09) 375 4506

Dr Andrew Tait, Principal Climate Scientist, NIWA National Climate Centre, Wellington

Mobile (027) 3277948, Tel (04) 386 0562