Climate Summary for March 2010

Very dry in the northeast, Otago, Canterbury.

  • Rainfall: Extremely dry in the north and east of the North Island, and parts of Canterbury and Otago.  A record dry March for Auckland.  Wet in Fiordland and parts of Southland.
  • Soil moisture:  Severe soil moisture deficits continue in Northland, Auckland, South Canterbury and Otago. Dry soils have also developed in Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, and parts of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.
  • Temperature:  A much warmer than average March for Nelson, Otago, South Canterbury, and the Lakes District.  A cooler than usual March for the West Coast, and from Raglan to Waiouru.  Near average temperatures elsewhere.
  • Sunshine: Extremely sunny for the east coast of the North Island, Wellington, and parts of the Central Plateau and Bay of Plenty regions. 

More frequent anticyclones (‘highs’) were located in the Tasman Sea during March, producing enhanced southwesterly winds over New Zealand, consistent with the El Niño which has been present since November 2009.  This resulted in an extremely dry March for the north and east of the North Island, and South Canterbury and Otago.  Severe soil moisture deficits continue in Northland and Auckland, South Canterbury and Otago.  Significant soil moisture deficits have also developed in Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, Taupo and parts of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay.  


Well below normal March rainfall (less than 50 percent of normal) occurred in eastern Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taupo, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, parts of South Canterbury and Otago. It was also rather dry over the remainder of the North Island and Nelson, with rainfall totals between 50 and 75 percent of normal.  In comparison, it was wet in Fiordland and parts of Southland, with more than 120 percent of normal rainfall recorded.  Elsewhere, March rainfalls were near normal.   


March temperatures were near average (within 0.5°C of the long-term average) in many regions of New Zealand.  However, Nelson, Otago, South Canterbury and the Lakes District recorded well above average temperatures (more than 1.2°C above average). The West Coast, and from Raglan to Waiouru, recorded below average temperatures (between 1.2°C and 0.5°C below average), resulting from the generally southwesterly airflow during the month.  The New Zealand national average temperature was 15.9°C (0.2°C above the long-term March average).


March was an extremely sunny month for the east coast of the North Island, around Wellington, and parts of the Central Plateau and the Bay of Plenty regions, with totals above 125 percent of normal. It was also rather sunny (between 110 and 124 percent of normal sunshine) for most other regions of the North Island, as well as parts of the eastern South Island.  In contrast, sunshine totals were between 75 and 90 percent of normal near Hokitika and Palmerston North. 

Further Highlights

  • The highest temperature was 32.7°C, recorded at Cromwell on the 9th, and the lowest (non-alpine) temperature was -3.7 °C, recorded at Waiouru on the 18th. Both are new March records at the sites.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall was 169 mm, recorded at Southwest Cape between 12 pm on the 30th and 8am on the 31st (a new all-time record at this site).
  • The highest wind gust was 216.8 km/hr, recorded at Baring Head, Wellington, on the 12th (a new all-time record at this site).  The highest wind gust ever recorded in New Zealand was 250 km/hr at Mt John, Canterbury on 18 April 1970.
  • Of the six main centres, Auckland was the driest, Wellington the wettest, Tauranga was the warmest and sunniest, and Dunedin the coolest. 

Full report

Full details of the March 2010 Climate Summary

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for PDF File March 2010

For further information, please contact:

Ms Georgina Griffiths – Climate Scientist– NIWA National Climate Centre, Auckland, Tel. (09) 375 4506 (work) or (027) 2936545 (mobile); or

Dr James Renwick – Climate Scientist – NIWA National Climate Centre, Wellington,
Tel.  (04) 386 0343 (work) or (021)1785550 (mobile)