Kiwis Wonder Where Winter Is as Temps Soar

     (CN) — The first six months of 2016 have been the hottest start to a year in New Zealand since recordkeeping began more than a century ago, government weather experts there said.
     Scientists at the government-funded National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said this past week that temperatures in the nation were 1.4 Celsius above the long-term average for the first half of the year.
     Temperatures have far exceeded the 1.1 C above-average heat waves New Zealand experienced in 1938 and 1999.
     “What’s happened in the background is that the earth has continued to warm as greenhouse gas levels have risen,” Chris Brandolino, a scientist at the agency, said.
     Carbon dioxide levels recorded at a station near Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, surpassed 400 parts per million in June for the first time in recorded history. Carbon dioxide levels are seen as a significant indicator of climate change.
     Brett Mullan, a climate scientist with the agency, said that the warmer temperatures are a result of a long-term regional warming stemming from rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, and what scientists call local “natural variability.”
     “The natural variability acts like a ‘tail wind,’ pushing the local temperatures above the long-term trend. Two factors are important: sea surface temperatures in the Tasman Sea are exceptionally warm (persisting at more than 1 C above average since February 2016), and there has been more northerly flow than usual over New Zealand so far this year,” he said.
     Temperatures at 2.1 C above average made May the hottest month in New Zealand’s history.
     June, July and August are New Zealand’s coldest months, but the lack of cold weather has led to a reduction in electricity consumption after peaking in the first half of the year.
     Electricity usage in June dropped by eight percent in Wellington and seven percent in Christchurch, the third-largest city in New Zealand, compared with June 2015. The nation’s largest city, Auckland, had a two percent reduction in electricity usage in June, largely due to less drastic temperature fluctuations throughout different seasons.
     Several commercial ski fields in New Zealand have delayed opening or are offering limited runs as winter gets underway in the Southern Hemisphere.

%d bloggers like this: