Climate Summary for December 2010

Warm with a sting in the tail

  • Rainfall:  Below normal for central and eastern North Island and coastal Canterbury; above normal elsewhere
  • Sunshine: Below normal for much of North Island; above normal in Central and South Otago
  • Temperatures:  Above average for the whole country

In December 2010 there were more anticyclones (‘highs’) to the east of the North Island than is typical for the time of year, resulting in more airflows from the north and northwest than normal. This resulted in above average temperatures and below average sunshine hours for most places. A severe storm passed over the country on the 27th and 28th of the month, resulting in significant rainfalls, flooding and gale force winds for many areas.

December rainfall was more than double normal (at least 200 percent) in parts of Northland, Tasman, Nelson, Marlborough and the Southern Alps. Much of this rain fell during a severe storm which passed over the country on the 27th and 28th of the month. Rainfall was approximately one and a half times normal (around 150 percent) in parts of Auckland, Coromandel, coastal Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington, Buller, West Coast, Otago and Southland. However, parts of Gisborne, Wairarapa and north Canterbury received less than half (50 percent) of their normal December rainfall, while central North Island areas, Manawatu and south Canterbury received about three quarters (75 percent) of their normal rainfall for the month. At the end of December, soil moisture was still below normal in parts of western Northland, Waikato, inland Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Manawatu, Wairarapa and north Canterbury.

Sunshine totals were below normal (less than 90 percent of normal) across most of the North Island, excluding the Manawatu and Wellington regions. Sunshine totals were above normal (greater than 110 percent) in Central Otago, parts of Fiordland and around Balclutha. Other areas received near average sunshine for the month.   

Temperatures for December 2010 were well above average (at least 1.2 °C above average) for much of the country, particularly in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, central North Island, and north and central parts of Canterbury. The New Zealand national average temperature was 17.2 °C (1.6°C above the 1971–2000 December average).

Further highlights

  • The highest temperature was 32.8 °C, recorded at both Rangiora and Christchurch Airport on the 18th.
  • The lowest temperature was -2.3 °C, recorded at Tara Hills (South Canterbury) on the 8th (a new record there).
  • The highest 1-day rainfall was 313 mm recorded at Mount Cook on the 27th (4th highest 1-day rainfall in December since 1928).
  • The highest wind gust was 172 km/hr, recorded at Mount Kaukau (Wellington) on the 28th.
  • Of the six main centres in December 2010, Auckland was the warmest, Wellington the wettest, Christchurch the driest and sunniest, and Dunedin was the coolest.  All six centres experienced well above average temperatures for the month.

Full report

Full details of the December 2010 climate summary

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for December 2010

For further information, please contact:

Dr Andrew Tait – Principal Scientist – NIWA National Climate Centre, Wellington, Tel.  (04) 386 0562 (work) or (027) 327 7948 (mobile)
Dr James Renwick – Principal Scientist – NIWA National Climate Centre, Wellington, Tel.  (04) 386 0343 (work) or (021) 178 5550 (mobile)