The New Year 2004 heatwave


“As New Zealand enters the third day with temperatures soaring into the mid thirties, the significance of this early 2004 heatwave is only being recognised as the official figures are filed,” said Senior Climate Scientist Dr Jim Salinger.

“On 1 January 2004 the maximum temperature soared to 38.4°C at Darfield, equal highest for January for the South Island, and second only to 38.9°C recorded in Ruatoria on 11 January 1979.

“The significance of this figure is that this is one of the few occasions when temperatures in New Zealand have exceeded the 100°F mark (37.8°C) since reliable climate recordings began in the 1860s. The hottest day on record is 7 February 1973, when 42.4°C was recorded at Rangiora, 42.3°C at Jordon in the Awatere Valley, with 41.6°C in Christchurch City and 40.0°C at Christchurch Airport.

“This heatwave is occurring under similar conditions to that of the February 1973 one,” said Dr Salinger, “with a large anticyclone draped over the country and fronts to the south pushing hot nor’westers over eastern districts.”

Other high temperatures on 1 January 2004 included:

Woodbury 37.0°C
Timaru Airport 36.1°C New January record
Winchmore 35.8°C 2nd highest for January
Hororata 36.0°C New January record

Temperatures on 2 January were slightly lower, with maximums of 37.3°C at Darfield, 36.0°C at Hororata, 33.8°C at Murchison and 33.7°C at Middlemarch. On 3 January the mercury reached 36.9°C at Darfield, and 35.0°C at Hororata and Middlemarch.

NB: These figures have been revised since their initial release.

For further information, please contact:

Dr Jim Salinger
Senior Climate Scientist
NIWA National Climate Centre
+ 64 9 375 2053 (Bus)
+ 64 25 540 707 (mobile)

Stuart Burgess
+ 64 4 386 0569 (Bus)