Relatively warm winter coming, Niwa forecasts

By Martin Johnston

The outlook doesn't look good for skiers and snowboarders. Photo / Supplied
The outlook doesn't look good for skiers and snowboarders. Photo / Supplied

You probably shouldn't pack the thermals away, but climate scientists are predicting a relatively warm winter for New Zealand.

"Overall, temperatures for winter 2013 - June to August - are very likely to be above average across the entire country," the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Science (Niwa) said in its seasonal climate outlook. "However, occurrences of cold snaps, frost and snow conditions should, of course, still be expected in many areas from time to time, as is typical of winter."

The outlook makes gloomy reading for skiers and snowboarders.

However, a skifield manager scoffed at the outlook while observing the snow lying on the ground in Queenstown yesterday, and stated a preference for the snow predictions of "moon man" Ken Ring.

"We have experienced, in years gone by, much different realities to the forecasts which Niwa put out each year," said James Coddington, chief executive of the NZSki.com group of skifields - Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Mt Hutt.

"We've already experienced a significantly different result to what they have forecast. We are holding out a lot of hope it's going to be a great winter."

The week's snow dump came from the frigid southwesterly storm that blasted the country this week, causing flakes to fall at beaches in Dunedin on Tuesday, closing schools and roads, including the Desert Road, and in Auckland uprooting trees and causing residents to fossick for warmer bedding as the temperature plunged to near zero.

Niwa said that around the equator, the Pacific Ocean remained in a neutral state - neither El Nino nor La Nina - and it appeared this would persist through winter.

Air pressures around NZ were forecast to be higher than normal to the south and southeast, and lower than normal to the west and north.

"This circulation pattern is expected to be associated with more northerly and northeasterly airflow than usual, for the season as a whole."

Winter rainfall in the north and east of the North Island, including Auckland and Waikato, is likely to be in the normal or above normal ranges; and near normal for the central and southwest regions of the North Island and for all the South Island.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts operations manager Chris Thrupp wasn't fazed by the Niwa outlook. "We had a similar outlook from Niwa last year and it was an average season. It wasn't a bumper; we had average snow cover."

- NZ Herald

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