Monday, March 4, 2024

Here comes everyone’s favourite season

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New Zealanders fall hard for autumn every year, writes Phil Duncan.
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By Phil Duncan

It’s the middle of February and no matter how you slice it or dice it, we’re now approaching the next turning point – the season of autumn. 

Every poll WeatherWatch has ever run on which season New Zealanders love most has ended with the same answer: autumn. Especially the first half of the season in March and early April, where we often have summer-like daytime weather but longer and cooler nights for sleeping. 

The mornings have a healthier crispness to them with heavier dews underfoot. I remember as a child walking up to the school (we lived in the school house, so I can’t tell those dramatic stories of long walks to school where it was uphill in both directions!) and I remember at this time of year my shoes being wet from the morning dew or the cut grass from the rugby field being stuck underfoot in wet clumps.

There’s a good chance we have reached the general peak of summer heat, and while many more hot days will likely be on the way, the overnight lows should start to slowly drop and the morning dew should start to increase. 

The facial eczema national trend as of February 8.

This year our much drier summer (generally speaking) compared to last year has seen a drop in facial eczema spore counts. The 2024 spore counts are more than half those of 2023 at this same time (national trend). They are also below 2022 at this same time … but we’re up on 2021. The next 10 to 15 weeks will be the main risk time.

We’re also in the peak of the cyclone season. Normally El Niño would silence much of the chatter around the tropics for our part of the world, but not this year. Just last Thursday there were two tropical cyclones in the South Pacific and we’ve already had two cyclones this season (Jasper and Kirrily, which both hit Queensland). 

There’s a thermal lag when it comes to summer; we reach out hottest weather in late January to mid-February, but the oceans take longer and reach their warmest in March, which is why we often still see tropical storms through to April.

The forecast for the rest of February is busy when you look at the big picture – with the chance of a severe cyclone wanting to form directly north of NZ for weeks and long range modelling still showing this possibility at the time of writing this. 

It adds the isolated chance of tropical rain reaching NZ. But it’s worth noting we have big powerful high-pressure zones coming our way too. It’s a really unusual El Niño where the big highs are correctly now in our part of the world – but the tropics has energy rarely seen during an El Niño summer.

The potential weather set up across Australia and New Zealand on February 19.

Upcoming highlights:

• Big high pressure kicks off this week

• Hot windy nor’westers first half of this week

• More high pressure this weekend

• Mostly dry overall, but some isolated downpours/thunderstorms next seven days

• El Niño-like westerly pattern for NZ

• But a big easterly flow north of NZ 

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