March 2008 Warmer Than Normal

Tawa’s climate during March 2008 was warmer than normal, continuing the trend set in March 2007 which was the warmest and driest since 2004, and similar to temperatures experienced during March 2003.

Whilst daily high temperatures remained below the 30 °C recorded in 2003 and the 27.5 °C maximum recorded in 2007, the thermometer never sank to single digits, the first time this has been noted since readings began in 2003.

March 2008 began with a showery period which it was hoped would relieve the typical dryness of February. 29 mm of rain fell at Tawa on the 1st and, when the weather turned fine on March 5th, a welcome 39 mm had been recorded. While the Wairarapa and Waikato regions experienced ongoing drought conditions, it was thought that the Wellington region had returned to normal rainfall.

Twenty-four dry days then followed, during which councils warned that irrigation system and sprinkler bans might be extended to total hosing bans if reservoirs continued falling. Still sunny days predominated, apart from a nor’westerly gale on the 11th and strong northerlies on the 7th and 8th and on the 21st. Overnight lows were higher than normal, and vege gardeners were able to harvest late crops.

On the 29th, misty drizzly conditions heralded the end of the dry spell, and parched soils benefitted from 29 mm of steady rain. A further 34 mm fell the following day but rain eased back to 12 mm on the 31st returning what had looked to be a very dry month into a typical March rainfall pattern with 114 mm.

March 2007 fulfilled the hopes of a late or Indian summer with a month of sunny days with light winds punctuated by occasional gusty periods from the northerly quarter. A dawn downpour on the 13th broke a 17-day dry spell and at 11:05 p.m. the western part of the Wellington region from Johnsonville to the Kapiti Coast and parts of the Hutt Valley were abruptly plunged into darkness by a total power failure. It was alleged that the failure was caused by a lightning strike on the Kapiti Coast, but this was never verified. Power was restored at Tawa just after 2 a.m. on the 14th.

The 14th was somewhat stormy with intermittent downpours across the Wellington region, with a peak rain rate of 189.5 mm/hr being measured at Tawa at 12:09 p.m. The 18th was a memorable day as we adjusted to the return to standard time. An unusual strong westerly blew for 2-3 hours during the afternoon as many of us listened to reports of the lahar which had finally drained Mt. Ruapehu’s crater lake after 11 years.

The thermometer began rising on the 29th under the influence of a blocking high that contributed to a deluge that brought a 100-year flood event to residents of the Northland Peninsula. Tawa’s highest temperature of the month was achieved when the thermometer hit 27.5 ºC on the 30th. The 31st was somewhat cooler but hardly took the shine off a pleasant month.

A southerly gale on March 3rd 2006 set the tone for the first part of the month, and the mercury plummeted to 8 °C overnight. 12 metre swells in Cook Strait played havoc with the inter-island ferry services, which were cancelled after vehicles were damaged and passengers experienced an 8 hour nightmare instead of the usual 3½ hour trip. Things were very rough in Canterbury.

Temperatures improved from the 7th, with the odd still day resulting in single figure temperatures overnight. Another southerly gale on the 24th, sent temperatures down again and, apart from a bright, warm 23 °C on the 27th, March 2006 ended with cool temperatures. There were 5 days with low cloud or fog, but rainfall was lower than the previous year at 91 mm.

Temperatures were warm during March 2005, but it was windier. The weather station recorded 101 mm of rain in Tawa, and the operator began noting down the 4 days that had low cloud or fog.

March 2004 was much cooler than the previous year, but otherwise unremarkable. A southerly cold snap dropped temperatures from the 28th until the month’s end, with a thunderstorm that evening.

March 2003 started with hot and humid weather, with the mercury reaching 30 °C on the first and 29 °C the following day. Drought conditions applied from about the 7th, with a few spits of rain on the 11th. The dry spell was broken by a day of fine misty drizzle on the 29th, while spectacular thunderstorms over Kapiti lit up the northern sky during the evening of the 30th with impressive multiple flashes, sometimes 4 or 5 at a time.

Automatic and manual readings taken at Tawa since 2003 can be summarised as follows:

The lowest March temperatures were 8 °C (2003), 6 °C (2004), 7.1 °C (2005), 5.0 °C (2006), 7.1 °C (2007), 10.4 °C (2008).
The average daily low temperatures were 12 °C (2003), 12 °C (2004), 14 °C (2005), 11 °C (2006), 14 °C (2007), 13 °C (2008).
The highest March temperatures were 30 °C (2003), 22 °C (2004), 25 °C (2005), 23.3 °C (2006), 27.5 °C (2007), 26.8 °C (2008).
The average daily high temperatures were 23 °C (2003), 18 °C (2004), 21 °C (2005), 19 °C (2006), 22 °C (2007), 22 °C (2008).

Average temperature: 16.3 °C (2005), 14.7 °C (2006), 17.6 °C (2007), 17.3 °C (2008).
Average humidity: 85% (2005), 81% (2006), 80% (2007), 77% (2008).

Days with frost: none (2003), none (2004), none (2005), none (2006), none (2007), none (2008).
Days with rain: 6 (2003), 10 (2004), 18 (2005), 13 (2006), 7 (2007), 9 (2008).
Days with thunderstorms: 1 (2003), 1 (2004), none (2005), none (2006), none (2007), none (2008).
Days with hail: none (2003), none (2004), none (2005), none (2006), none (2007), none (2008).
Days with strong winds: 2 (2003), 2 (2004), 10 (2005), 11 (2006), 8 (2007), 7 (2008).
Flood events: none (2003) none (2004), none (2005), none (2006), none (2007), none (2008).
Low cloud/fog days: no data (2003) no data (2004), see notes (2005), 5 (2006), 2 (2007), 1 (2008).
Rainfall: 101 mm (2005), 91 mm (2006), 34 mm (2007), 114 mm (2008).

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