Mercury on the rise

"Warmer and wetter": Arrowtown weather statistician Richard Newman

Despite a mammoth snowfall to welcome winter, this month’s mild temperatures are bucking the seasonal trend.

Arrowtown weather statistician Richard Newman says while July, 2020, was warmer than this month, the Whakatipu’s experiencing some relatively balmy temps.

‘‘Seldom in years gone by in July did we get to double-figures, ie, about 10 degrees, [but] this is quite common now.’’

Last Monday, Arrowtown bottomed out at -6.8degC, while the warmest day so far was July 12 where the village got to 12degC.

‘‘The winters are definitely becoming warmer and wetter, with less frosts, and, when we do get frosts, they only last for a few days, then it warms up again.’’

Semi-retired climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger, who lives in Queenstown, agrees it’s been rainier — Queenstown’s received 97 millimetres this month.

Plenty of snow despite warming: Climate scientist Jim Salinger

‘‘That basically works out at least one-and-a-half-times the normal rainfall,’’ he says.

‘‘The average temperature for this month so far is 4.7degC, which is half a degree above average.’’

He says the warmer conditions needn’t alarm skifields in the short-term, though, given the mountains are still on the receiving end of solid snow dumps.

‘‘People are worried with global warming that all the snow will disappear, but at the moment it’s more driven by getting the correct sort of weather patterns — west-north-westerlies — on to the Queenstown area.’’

Newman says the changes have been predicted by NIWA and other experts for some time now.

“Our weather pattern used to be west to [southwest], and we have had very few of those systems this year,” he says.

Higher temperatures have also meant the frequent lows coming from the northeast, that turn southeast and bring snow to inland Canterbury, Tekapo and Wānaka, have warmed by the time they arrive in the Basin, meaning snow falls only to around 800m.

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