Year of extremes in sun, rain and heat
NZ Herald  Friday January 09, 2004 [Abridged]
Last year was notable for its severe weather and climate extremes and, yes, Auckland was the wettest main centre in the country.
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) issued its 2003 climate summary yesterday, showing the year was another in which records were set. There was record sunshine in the South Island and lower North Island, while in parts of Otago there was record low rainfall. It was just plain wet in the Coromandel Peninsula, where rainfall exceeded 110 per cent of normal. Auckland had 1345mm of rain, or 104 per cent of normal, compared with 1040mm in Wellington. Auckland also recorded less sunshine (2042 hours) than Christchurch (2362 hours) and Wellington (2271 hours) but more than Dunedin (which had a record year for sunshine - 1971 hours).
Niwa senior climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger said that in his youth there seemed to be fewer weather extremes than there were now... International research indicated more extremes of wetness, dryness and high temperatures to come. Dr Salinger said that for New Zealand, more highs and north-westerlies from May to August produced warm weather and the warmest June on record. The year's national average temperature was 12.7C, 0.1C above normal. The highest annual mean temperature for the year, 16.4C, was recorded at Mokohinau in the outer Hauraki Gulf.
Dr Salinger said there were two heatwaves, in late summer and at the end of the year. Although winter had a mild start, snowfalls caused power cuts and closed airports, stranding travellers in the eastern South Island and North Island high country in July. South Island high country snowfall in October resulted in heavy losses of newborn lambs. He said seas around New Zealand were warmer than normal until October but were cooler than normal by December. [...]

A hazardous winter in New Zealand
NIWA Media Release [Abridged]
If you thought this winter seemed a little more hazardous than usual, you would be right. From floods and droughts to extreme storm surges and magnitude 7 earthquakes, this winter outstripped last year for the sheer numbers of natural hazards.
‘We had two earthquakes of magnitude 6 and over this winter compared with none in 2002, and more than twice as many earthquakes between magnitude 5 and 6,’ said NIWA scientist Dr Warren Gray. ‘We also had significantly more extreme weather events and more than double the number of coastal hazards as last year.’
‘We experienced the whole gamut of natural hazards this winter,’ said Dr Gray, ‘the only thing missing was a volcanic eruption to complete the picture.’

© Copyright 2003 by NIWA