Auckland baked under its second second driest summer in 50 years, according to new weather figures.
The National Institute Of Water and Atmospheric Research February climate summary also said soil was bone dry, with less than 15mm of rain falling in parts of Northland, Auckland, and the Bay of Plenty.
The soil suffered such an extreme lack of moisture in the top of the North Island that a drought was declared in Northland last week, and it is expected the same will be announced for Waikato this week.
Niwa said February was characterised by slow moving anticyclones over the country, which resulted in an extremely dry and sunny February for many regions.
It was the driest February on record for Leigh, north Auckland, and Milford Sound. In the case of Leigh, it was also the driest month (of any month) in records which began in 1966.
The soil in most of the North Island, Canterbury, and Central Otago had a moisture deficit of 130mm.
Rain also decreased by a quarter of normal falls around Taupo, in parts of Gisborne and Hawkes Bay, and along the West Coast of the South Island, Niwa said.
Generally, the rest of the country had about half of normal February, with the exceptions of Wanganui and Wellington, Central Otago and the Lakes District, with near normal rainfall.
Marlborough and the Kaikoura coast had between 50 and 80 per cent of normal February rain, Niwa's report said.
Unsurprisingly, sunshine totals were well above normal - more than 125 per cent of usual February hours - across most of the North Island (south of Auckland), on the West Coast South Island, along the Southern Alps, as well as north Canterbury and the Kaikoura coast.
Elsewhere, sunshine totals were also above normal - between 110 and 124 per cent.
Wellington and Hamilton recorded their sunniest February on record, Tauranga experienced its second sunniest February, Christchurch had its third sunniest February, and Dunedin recorded its 5th sunniest February, Niwa said.
Mean temperatures in February were above average across the west and south of the South Island, as well as in inland regions of the North Island.
In contrast, below average February temperatures were observed around the Kaikoura Coast, as well as the east coast of the North Island.
The nationwide average temperature in February 2013 was 17.1C (0.2C below the 1971-2000 February average).
Notably, however, in most regions, afternoon temperatures were typically well above February average and morning temperatures were below February average, due to the clear skies and relatively light winds associated with the prevailing high pressures, Niwa said.
* the highest temperature was 34.6C, recorded at Alexandra on 1 February;
* the lowest temperature was -1.1C, observed at Mount Ruapehu on 6 February;
* the highest 1-day rainfall was 278mm, recorded at North Egmont on 4 February;
* the highest wind gust was 145 km/h, at Southwest Cape, Stewart Island, on 10 February; and
* of the six main centres in February 2013, Wellington was the sunniest but also the wettest; Auckland the warmest, Dunedin the coolest, and Christchurch the driest
- APNZBy Rebecca Quilliam Email Rebecca