Climate Summary for March 2014

Dryness persists for much of the North Island.

Rainfall 

Well below normal rainfall (less than 50% of March normal) occurred for a sizeable part of the North Island between the Manawatu-Wanganui and Auckland regions.  In fact, numerous locations recorded at least their third-driest March on record.  Isolated areas of above normal rainfall (120-149% of normal) or well above normal rainfall (more than 149% of March normal) occurred on the hills around the Coromandel Peninsula.  On the South Island, much of the West Coast, Fiordland and Stewart Island recorded below normal rainfall (50-79% of March normal) or well below normal rainfall.  Conversely, above normal or well above normal rainfall accumulated for eastern areas of the Canterbury and Otago regions with Christchurch (Riccarton) enduring its wettest March on record.

Soil moisture

As of 1 April 2014, drier than normal soils were present across much of the North Island.  Soil moisture levels were much drier than normal across some western areas of Northland and Auckland, central and western Waikato, Taranaki, Wanganui-Manawatu and eastern Bay of Plenty regions of the North Island.  For the South Island, soil moisture levels were driest for much of the Tasman and northern parts of the West Coast regions.  Soils on Stewart Island were drier than normal for the time of year as well.  Wetter than normal soils for the time of year on the South Island were confined to coastal areas of the Canterbury and Otago regions, especially about Banks Peninsula.

Temperature

Temperatures for much of New Zealand were near average (within 0.5°C of March average).  Notable exceptions include pockets of below average temperatures (0.5-1.2°C below March average) for coastal areas from the southern Gisborne, northern Hawke’s Bay and far southeast coastal Manawatu-Wanganui regions.  The March temperature regime for South Island was not too dissimilar to that of the North Island with near average values for the start of autumn.  One exception, however, was a stretch of coastline from Marlborough region south through to the northern Otago region where below average temperatures were observed.  Within this zone there were spotty areas of well below normal temperatures (at least 1.2°C below the March average) especially in and around the Banks Peninsula.

Sunshine

Above normal sunshine (110-124% of March normal) was recorded for much of the North Island from the Auckland region south through much of the interior and eastern portions of the North Island.  It was an especially bright start to autumn for the Waikato region where well above normal sunshine (more than 125% of March normal) occurred. For the South Island, near normal sunshine occurred (within 10% of March normal) for most areas.  Exceptions include Dunedin and north-central portions of the South Island where sunshine was above normal.

Overview

March 2014 was characterised by anomalously high pressure over much of New Zealand, and in particular, over the South Island.  In spite of the overall surface pressure regime being abnormally high, there were periods of lower pressure, which contributed to the occurrence of a few moderate-to-heavy rainfall events during the month.

For the most part, with regards to rainfall on the North Island, March picked up where February ended as abnormally dry conditions were experienced for the start of autumn.  Well below normal rainfall (less than 50% of March normal) occurred for a sizeable part of the North Island between the Manawatu-Wanganui and Auckland regions.  In fact, numerous locations placed in their top three for driest March on record.  This includes Hamilton, which experienced its second driest March on record with only 6 mm of rain accumulating for the month (records go back to 1935).  There were patches of near normal (within 20% of normal) rainfall on the North Island including the Wellington and eastern Hawke’s Bay regions.  Isolated areas of above rainfall (120-149% of normal) or well above normal rainfall (more than 149% of March normal) occurred on the hills around the Coromandel Peninsula, largely due to the impacts of ex-tropical cyclone Lusi during the middle part of the month. 

On the South Island, the vast majority of the West Coast, Fiordland and Stewart Island recorded below normal rainfall (50-79% of March normal) or well below normal rainfall.  Conversely, above normal to well above normal rainfall was experienced for eastern areas of the Canterbury and Otago regions, where Christchurch and Dunedin reported well above March rainfall.  In fact, Christchurch (Riccarton) endured its wettest March on record (records go back to 1863).   Additionally, of the 200mm that fell during the month at Christchurch (Riccarton), 123mm accumulated in one day (4 March), which is now the greatest one day March rainfall on record for the city.  Otherwise, near normal rainfall was the theme for much of the central portion of the South Island.  

As of 1 April 2014, soil moisture levels were well below normal across western areas of the Northland, the Waikato, inland Wanganui-Manawatu and eastern Bay of Plenty Regions of the North Island.  Areas of central Northland have normal to slightly wetter than normal soils for this time of year.  For the South Island, soil moisture levels are driest in much of the Tasman and northern parts of the West Coast regions.  Soils on Stewart Island are drier than normal for this time of year as well.  Wetter than normal soils for this time of year on the South Island are confined to coastal areas of the Canterbury and Otago regions, in particular about Banks Peninsula, reflecting where excessive rainfall occurred during the month.

Temperatures during the first month of autumn in New Zealand were near average (within 0.5°C of March average) for a large part of the country.  Notable exceptions include pockets of below average temperatures (0.5-1.2°C below March average) for coastal areas from the southern Gisborne, northern Hawke’s Bay and far southeast coastal Manawatu-Wanganui regions.  The March temperature regime for South Island was comparable to the North Island with near average values for March.  One exception, however, was a sizeable area of below average temperatures along coastal sections of the South Island from the Marlborough region south through to the northern Otago region.  Within this zone there were even spotty areas of well below normal temperatures (greater than 1.2°C below March average) particularly in and around the Banks Peninsula.  The nation-wide average temperature in March 2014 was 15.3°C (0.5°C below the 1971-2000 March average from NIWA’s seven station temperature series which begins in 1909).

The lack of rainfall for much of the North Island was combined with an abundance of early autumn sunshine for much of the island.  In fact, above normal sunshine (110-124% of March normal) was recorded from the Auckland region south through much of interior and eastern portions of the North Island.  It was an especially bright start to autumn for the Waikato region where well above normal sunshine (more than 125% of March normal) occurred.  Slightly below normal sunshine was experienced in Wellington.  For the South Island, near normal sunshine occurred (within 10% of March normal) for most areas.  Outliers include Dunedin and north-central portions of the South Island where sunshine was above normal.

Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 30.8°C, observed at Wallaceville (Upper Hutt) on 16 March.
  • The lowest temperature was -3.3°C, observed at Pukaki Airport on 25 March.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall was 153 mm, recorded at Lyttelton on 4 March. 
  • The highest wind gust was 167 km/hr, observed at Cape Turnagain on 17 March.
  • Of the six main centres, Auckland was the warmest, Dunedin the coolest and cloudiest, Hamilton was the driest, Christchurch was wettest, and Tauranga was the sunniest.
  • Of the available, regularly reporting sunshine observation sites, the sunniest four centres so far in 2014 (January to March) are: Whakatane (873 hours), Takaka (771 hours), Tauranga (770 hours) and Appleby (near Nelson, 766 hours).

For further information, please contact:

Dr Mike Revell
Principal Scientist - Meteorology, NIWA Wellington
Tel. 04 386 0328

Climate statistics table

Climate statistics for March 2014 (PDF 69 KB)

Full report:

Climate Summary for March 2014 (PDF 628 KB)