March one of the driest on record

By Cassandra Mason

March was one of the driest on record, Niwa information shows. Photo / Thinkstock
March was one of the driest on record, Niwa information shows. Photo / Thinkstock

High temperatures and scarce rainfall helped make last month one of the driest Marches on record in many places.

The Niwa Monthly Climate Summary for March, released yesterday, shows most places experienced abnormally dry conditions as high pressure systems lingered over the country.

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Rainfall was more than 50 per cent lower than usual for the month in a large proportion of the North Island, with Hamilton recording its second driest March on record with only 6mm of rain.

Auckland had its second-sunniest March on record.

Last week most of Northland's west coast from Cape Reinga to Pouto Pt was classified a localised drought area under government regulations for a small-scale adverse climatic event.

Other areas between Auckland and the Manawatu-Wanganui regions also experienced drought-like conditions, but no drought was declared because the conditions weren't widespread enough.

"The dryness continued across the Cook Strait and into much of the western portions of the South Island where Westport was subjected to its driest March on record," the report said.

However, bursts of low pressure brought a few moderate-to-heavy bouts of rain, especially in Christchurch where temperatures were below average.

Ex-tropical cyclone Lusi also brought above-average rainfall to some isolated areas like the Coromandel Peninsula.

Despite abnormally high temperatures in much of the North Island, the nationwide average temperature for the month of 15.3C, 0.5C below NIWA's 1971-2000 March average.

This year so far, the country's sunniest spot has been Whakatane with 878 hours of sunshine, followed by Takaka with 771 and Tauranga with 770 hours.

Sunshine hours were above average across the board, especially in the North Island.

As of April 1, soil in the North Island was much drier than normal, particularly in some western areas of Northland and Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, Wanganui-Manawatu and eastern Bay of Plenty.

South Island soil moisture levels were the driest in the Tasman and parts of the West Coast.

A staff member at Palmers Gardenworld in Remuera said dry conditions in Auckland had bumped up sales of watering and irrigation products.

Water crystals called "crystal rain" were especially popular during dry spells.

"You put [them] around your plant roots and when you're adding water, they absorb the water and when the plants start drying out, [they] release that water."

March weather at a glance

* The country's highest temperature of 30.8C was recorded at Wallaceville in Upper Hutt on March 16

* The lowest temperature was -3.3C, recorded at Pukaki Airport near Twizel on March 25

* Lyttelton had the highest 1-day rainfall of 153mm on March 4

* The highest wind gust was 167km/h at Cape Turnagain on March 17

* Of the six main centres, Auckland was the warmest, Dunedin the coolest and cloudiest, Hamilton was the driest, Christchurch was the wettest, and Tauranga the sunniest.

Weekend weather preview

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the weekend would bring much-needed rain to parts of the North Island.

Eastern parts of the North Island like Gisborne and Napier were in for a "damp" weekend, as April brought an end to a "bone dry" March.

Hamilton would finally enjoy some rain following its second-driest March on record.

However, conditions in Auckland and western parts of the North Island would be "fine".

A front moving up the South Island on Saturday would bring showers and possible thunderstorms to Christchurch and Timaru late in the day.

Sunny weather in Wellington today would deteriorate over the weekend, with rain expected for the royal visit on Monday.

In the main centres this weekend.

Auckland: Fine with risk of showers. Weekend temperatures will reach 23C-24C.

Hamilton: Mostly fine and dry, with temperatures reaching 25C on Saturday and 26C on Sunday.

Wellington: Fine on Saturday with temperatures of 21C. Cloudy with drizzle on Sunday, with a high of 18C.

Christchurch: Cloudy both days with drizzle and showers late on Saturday. High of 19C on Saturday and 18C on Sunday.

Dunedin: Rain on Saturday and cloud and drizzle on Sunday. High of 16C both days.

- APNZ

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