Weather Watch

Weather analyst Philip Duncan checks the forecast and the story behind the temperatures

Weather Watch: When farmers are happy campers may be sad

By Philip Duncan

Campers will be hoping the weather is kind to them. Photo / APN
Campers will be hoping the weather is kind to them. Photo / APN

I've come to learn from being a weather forecaster that when farmers are happy with you chances are the weather is fairly average but healthy. That sums up 2012 - a fairly average year lacking in wild extremes.

You'll no doubt see headlines elsewhere saying that 2012 was a year of weather extremes. This seems to be a default setting for some journalists writing a weather piece each year. But every year has some extremes - it's about comparing those extreme events to other years and 2012 lacked large nationwide events.

Certainly there were some major extremes around the world, especially in the United States, which was hit by a couple of devastating hurricanes, a drought that controlled more than half the country and heat records were smashed all over the place. But New Zealand was much quieter.

January and February were cloudy, wet for many, and lacked the huge heat.

Once autumn arrived the La Nina weather pattern, that ruined last summer for holidaymakers, was finally out the door and a "normal" weather pattern moved in. Sure enough, our best summer weather arrived in March, with April being a great runner-up.

When farmers are happy it means they have enough warmth, rain and sunlight to make the grass grow. So the fewer the extremes the happier the farmers.

The flipside of a happy farmer can be the sad holidaymaker. A story by NewstalkZB on Boxing Day talked of ex-cyclone Evan's rain being a blessing for Northland (which it was). However, someone camping in Northland told me it was "hardly a blessing when you're camping".

Thankfully, this summer is shaping up to be a better camping one than last year.

Winter this year lacked the extremes of 2011. A snowstorm killed about 200 cattle when an estimated -15°C wind-chill blasted a Hokitika valley. But it was isolated and had little national impact. The Hobsonville tornado this month was, again, a localised event.

The past seven to 10 days in Auckland have been cloudy - some drizzle and rain in there too, along with wind and humidity. I still feel that summer this year will kick last year's butt for holidaymakers - but sometimes the happier the holidaymaker the sadder the farmer. There is a middle ground - I believe we will have it this summer for the most part.

- Herald on Sunday

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