Climate Summary for March 2016

Warm month for New Zealand with flooding in the South Island.

Overview

During March 2016, El Niño conditions prevailed in the tropical Pacific but continued to weaken. Typically, more westerly to south-westerly air flows over New Zealand are associated with El Niño during the autumn season. However, this was not the case this month as significantly higher than normal pressure was present to the east of New Zealand and extended over the country. This pressure pattern produced more north-easterly winds than usual over New Zealand.

The increased prevalence of air flow from the northeast during March caused warm, tropically-derived air masses to travel over New Zealand. Most of the country, but particularly the North Island, recorded well above average (>1.20°C above March average) or above average (+0.51°C to +1.20°C above March average) temperatures for the month. Parts of Northland, Waikato, Manawatu-Whanganui, and Westland recorded more than 2.0°C above the March average. Remarkably, almost every climate station around the country recorded above average or well above average mean temperatures for March. The nationwide average temperature in March 2016 was 17.0°C (1.3°C above the 1981-2010 March average from NIWA’s seven station temperature series which begins in 1909)*, making March 2016 the sixth-warmest March on record using this series.

The moist tropical air masses that affected New Zealand in March not only brought warm temperatures, but also significant rainfall to some parts of the country. Rainfall was more than double (>200%) the March normal in Nelson and Tasman. Takaka experienced its wettest March on record. Rainfall was also well above normal (>149% of March normal) in parts of Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, western Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Whanganui, and the west coast of the South Island. Conversely, rainfall was well below normal (<50% of March normal) for southern Northland, parts of Auckland, around Hamilton, the greater Wellington region, Banks Peninsula, coastal Otago (including Dunedin), and Invercargill.

As at 1 April 2016, soil moisture levels were above normal for the time of year for parts of Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, eastern Waikato, northern Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Tasman, Fiordland, and Stewart Island. Drier than normal soils were evident for the remainder of the North Island and the eastern and southern South Island, in particular for Southland.

Sunshine in March was generally near normal (90-109% of March normal) for most of the country. Some areas experienced above normal sunshine (110-125%), including Kaitaia and Dunedin, and some recorded below normal sunshine (75-89%), including Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Hokitika, Mt Cook and Invercargill.

Temperature

March temperatures were well above average (>1.20°C) or above average (+0.51°C to +1.20 °C) across virtually the entirety of New Zealand.

Rainfall

Rainfall was well above normal (149% of normal) for Tasman, Nelson, parts of Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Whanganui, and the west coast of the South Island. Conversely, rainfall was well below normal (50% of normal) for southern Northland, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Banks Peninsula, coastal Otago and Invercargill.

Sunshine

Sunshine was generally near normal (90-109%) for most of the country, with pockets of above normal sunshine (110-125%) in northern areas and below normal sunshine (75-89%) in western and southern parts of the South Island.

Soil moisture

As at 1 April 2016, soil moisture levels were above normal for the time of year for parts of Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, eastern Waikato, northern Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Tasman, Fiordland, and Stewart Island. Drier than normal soils were evident for the remainder of the North Island and the eastern and southern South Island, in particular for Southland.

Highlights

Further Highlights:

  • The highest temperature was 33.1°C, observed at Hastings, Napier and Gisborne on 8 March.
  • The lowest temperature was -3.3°C, observed at Hanmer Forest on 12 March.
  • The highest 1-day rainfall was 304 mm, recorded at Takaka on 23 March.
  • The highest wind gust was 196 km/hr, observed at Cape Turnagain on 10 March.
  • Of the six main centres in March 2016, Auckland was the warmest and sunniest, Wellington was the driest, Dunedin was the coolest and Tauranga was the wettest and cloudiest.
  • Of the available, regularly reporting sunshine observation sites, the sunniest four locations in 2016 so far (1 January – 31 March) were Richmond (856 hours), New Plymouth (806 hours), Blenheim (764 hours) and Takaka (736 hours).

Download

Download the full climate summary for March 2016 [PDF 629 KB]

Climate Statistics for March 2016 [70KB PDF]

Contact

For further information, please contact:

Mr Chris Brandolino
Principal Scientist – Forecasting, NIWA National Climate Centre
Tel. 09 375 6335, Mobile (027) 886 0014

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* Interim value