New Zealand Forecasting
Weather forecasting for New Zealand is difficult because;
- Both the North and South Islands are relatively long and narrow.
- There is effectively a long line or Ranges running, almost the entire length of the country.
- New Zealand has a prevailing westerly wind, meaning the West coast is wet, and the East coast dry.
- With the open ocean in close proximity on all sides, Land based is often mixed with Marine weather.
Rapidly changing conditions through out all areas of New Zealand year round are common and is often referred to “all seasons in one day.’
This is particularly the case in the Alpine areas where a warm and sunny day Summer day can change to freezing Winter conditions in as little as 30 minutes.
In the more temperate areas this phenomenon is just as common with warm sunny day becoming a “cold” sunny day, and even rain in a matter of hours.
The Weather for your Hike
The first and most important think to learn is that the surface weather forecasts presented by on Television, Radio and Print media are only part of the over all picture and not detailed enough for outdoor weather predictions.
To produce a the more detailed weather knowledge both before and during your trips, learn to read the raw weather information that is available from the New Zealand Meteorological Service online;
- Meteorological pressure maps and infra satellite maps(Best for predicting weather to come.)
- Marine forecasts (Particularly useful if your near the coast but heavy storms can affect the weather further in land)
- Doppler Rain Radar network (one of my favourites for its real time accuracy – where the rain goes the weather follows)
- Mountain forecasts(Particularly important in Alpine areas)
- Warnings for the area you are hiking.
- Rural forecasts in the area you are hiking.
Once you have started your hike and are perhaps no longer able to access the online information, then there is still plenty of good quality real time weather information right in front of you in nature.
- Consult the sky: Cloud Key each cloud type is synonymous with a type of weather. Clouds turning from nice fluffy white to dark / or Grey always up to no good!
- Increasing wind and or sudden drop in Temperature indicate a weather change for the worst.
- Weather Lore, the less scientific “Human Experience” or gut instincts that people outdoors have developed about the weather, like the clean fresh smell you get before rain.(*1)
The New Zealand Weather Rule;
Always plan to encounter all seasons in one day – regardless of the current season.
(*1) I remember being told my father who spent a while working in Africa that the Local people could always “smell” the rain, and predict its arrival with great accuracy often days before it showed up
- Massey University 2007, Environmental health indicators NZ
- Maritime New Zealand
- New Zealand Metservice
- Mountain Safety Council New Zealand (MSC)
- The Outdoor Herbivore Blog