Friday, December 1, 2023

Clouded winter gloom before spring bloom

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Somewhere beyond the cloud cover, the days are getting longer.
If you’re feeling a lack of energy, struggle to wake up, have a general feeling of flat and down coming and going across the day, it’s possible you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. 
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The days may be getting longer but in some regions you may not be noticing it due to all the extra cloud. 

The “neutral” weather pattern we’re in this winter means we don’t have a dominant direction our weather is coming from, although in the past month or two there has been a definite swing to more westerly-driven weather. 

This set-up has allowed for plenty of low pressure zones and fronts to move into the New Zealand area, while the high-pressure zones mostly staying parked over Australia.

This is allowing for plenty of cloud to smother our southern regions and those in the upper North Island. In particular it’s been extra gloomy in Southland, Otago, South Canterbury  and some coastal parts of Canterbury towards Banks Peninsula, the southern half of the West Coast, Wellington, Wairarapa, Kāpiti, Horowhenua, Manawatū, Whanganui, Taranaki, Auckland and Northland. 

That’s a large percentage of land that’s cloudy – not to mention that’s roughly three-quarters of NZ’s population. 

Cloudy weather can lead to SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you’re feeling a lack of energy, struggle to wake up, have a general feeling of flat and down coming and going across the day, it’s possible you may be suffering from SAD. 

Bright Sunshine Anomaly from August 1 to August 15 shows a large portion of southern and northern New Zealand experiencing a reduction in bright sunlight. Graphic: NIWA

It’s quite normal to experience this when our nights are longer and the days shorter – and it certainly doesn’t help to have so much extra cloud around lately.

For most of us, experiencing SAD is only mild and we cope with it just fine. But for others the gloom of darker days can really affect you mentally in crippling ways, especially if it makes other issues you may be dealing with feel even heavier and darker. 

Thankfully the days are now getting longer – and that increases the fastest in September by 20 minutes of extra sunlight each and every week. Also, spring is just around the corner with more westerlies to move our weather along.

Not everyone is in the doom and gloom – surprisingly, waterlogged Waikato has seen above normal sunshine hours over the first half of August. Also surprisingly, the upper West Coast is also in a sunlight surplus. 

But the region with the most amount of more-than-usual sunlight is perhaps one of the regions most in need of it – Hawke’s Bay, with over 125% of the normal brightness from the sun in the first half of this month. 

In real terms that means instead of the average five to six hours a day this region normally has with bright sunshine, it has had eight to nine hours on average (based on NIWA public data). The sunshine, coupled with some windy westerly days and some nights with frosts, has helped further dry parts of Hawke’s Bay lately. 

Upcoming Highlights:

• Following weekend rain, many regions will be drier this week

• High pressure kicks off this week across NZ (been a while!)

• A weak cold front midweek falls apart

• More high pressure returns late week

• Windy westerlies may clip the lower South Island late week

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