Rain, rain, not going away any time soon

Good weather may be on the horizon but rainbows, like this one at Taieri Mouth, are more of a common sight these days. Photo by Linda Robertson.Dunedin and Oamaru have already had more than threequarters of their average summer rainfall, yet there is still half the season to go.

It will come as no surprise to Otago residents and holiday-makers who have dealt with the cold, wet and windy conditions of the past few weeks that Dunedin has already received 74% of its average summer rainfall, Oamaru 80% and Queenstown 58%, Niwa figures show.

The wet has come with cooler-than-normal temperatures, with the mean daily maximum for the summer, December 1 to March 1, so far below the season's average in all Otago's main centres.

Alexandra's temperatures are so far 1.7degC below the summer average, while Wanaka is 1.6degC and Dunedin and Balclutha 1.2degC below.

Niwa meteorologist Mike Revelly said the weather had been changeable around the country so Otago should not feel picked on.

It was the result of a lack of slow-moving highs which brought more settled sunny weather. Instead, the country had seen the odd day or 12 hours of sunshine quickly shunted aside by the next front, he said.

So while the occasional sunny day was not satisfying many, it paid to remember the weather was worse last summer. Last January it rained nearly half the month, with heavy falls at the start pushing rainfall statistics way above normal.

So far this month it has rained more days than not, but rainfall totals were still well under normal, although in Wanaka 85% of the month's rainfall has fallen.

Dunedin hydrologist Dave Stewart said the weather was unpleasant but not ''unheard of''.

''The grass isn't even growing, it's struggling because it's not warm enough.''

He, like many, was hoping for a repeat of last summer's turnaround which saw Dunedin experience a six-week-long warm, mostly dry spell.

February was on average the second-warmest month of the year, after January.

Niwa climate scientist Brett Mullen said indications suggested February to March should be more settled.

''Summer last year was really unusual. It does look on the dry side in Otago for the next three months but don't expect it to come until February.''

In the meantime, the MetService was predicting a blustery, warm day today with 24degC - the warmest day since January 3 when 24degC was recorded, meteorologist John Law said.

However, it would be shortlived as another southerly spell was expected to bring rain on Thursday and a cool southwesterly on Friday.

It would improve slightly for the weekend, although rain was expected on Sunday.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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