Alexandra tops charts for warm year

Last January, Alexandra posted one of the highest temperatures ever recorded in New Zealand as the country registered its second-equal warmest year since records began.

January 30, 2018 was a scorcher.

Not only was Alexandra's 38.7degC New Zealand's highest temperature of the year - and the 12th highest temperature recorded nationwide - but Clyde (37.6degC) and Middlemarch (37.4degC) also both recorded their highest temperatures for the year on that day.

Yesterday, Niwa released its annual climate summary for 2018. It showed the South had an extreme weather year

Alexandra recorded New Zealand's warmest day, Clyde was the country's driest town and Milford Sound recorded more than 6800mm of rain - the most precipitation at a low-level weather station.

Niwa meteorologist Chris Brandolino said based on records kept since 1909, last year was the second-equal warmest on record in New Zealand.

The 2018 mean temperature was 13.4 degC, .8degC above the long-term average.

He said 2018 ''was part of an alarming trend''.

''Four of the past six years have placed in the top five for mean warm temperatures in New Zealand.''

Musselburgh weather station, in Dunedin, recorded its second-highest average temperature since being set up in 1947, 11.8degC, while Oamaru's 11.4degC was the fourth-highest since records began.

Mean minimum temperatures were also well up in the South.

Alexandra's 5.5degC and Dunedin's 8.8degC were records.

Gore and Te Anau experienced their second-highest temperatures, and Nugget Point, Oamaru, Roxburgh and Tara Hills their third-highest.

Central Otago volunteer fire brigades reported 208 callouts in January, as many as they would normally attend during an entire year.

While 2018 was warm, for the eastern South Island it was also wet. Rainfall was well above the average normal.

''Spring 2018 was extremely wet in Otago, where Oamaru, Middlemarch, Cromwell, and Lauder all observed their wettest spring on record,'' Niwa said.

''The 326mm of rain that fell in Oamaru was 69% of the town's normal annual rainfall, and in Middlemarch, the 305mm that fell during spring was more rain than fell in the entire year in 2003.''

Milford Sound retained its status as New Zealand's wettest low level place, with 6818mm.

Over the high elevation stations, Doon River (1211m above sea level), in Southland, was the third-wettest location nationwide, recording 7648mm.

Two ex-tropical cyclones - Fehi and Gita - hit New Zealand in February, sending rainfall figures well above average for the month.

The South was also hit by severe rain and flooding in November and many locations recorded at least double the normal rainfall for the time of year.

''On November 19 and 20 persistent rain fell over many southern and eastern parts of the South Island,' Niwa said.

''Considerable flooding occurred on the Taieri Plain, and the area was subsequently cut off from State Highway1 by floodwaters. Local farmers reported floodwaters up to 3m deep on their paddocks.

''Widespread surface flooding was reported in Dunedin, Mosgiel, Lawrence, Beaumont, Middlemarch and Weston, and the Clutha River's flow peaked at about 2700 cumecs - its highest level since November 1999.''

At the other extreme, Central Otago was the driest area in New Zealand.

Clyde (526mm), Cromwell (541mm) and Alexandra (556mm) were the top three locations nationwide for lowest rainfall.

Central also starred in the snow statistics.

A cold southerly wind which followed ex-tropical cyclone Gita meant the Crown Range recorded its first snow for the year in February.

A cold front on September 17 brought heavy rain and snow to Central Otago and Southland and up to 45cm of snow fell in some Queenstown suburbs.

While 2018 was not a big year for wind, a September 9 gust in Waimate North claimed one notable casualty - it skittled New Zealand's oldest oak tree, aged 194.

Climate scientist Jim Salinger said average minimum temperatures in 2018 were the warmest on record, and the heatwave had resulted in grapes maturing earlier than ever and warm water fish species appearing in southern waters.

''Niwa's climate summary confirms that we are experiencing the warmest group of years in our recorded climate history in the 2010s.'' he said.

MetService meteorologist Lisa Murray said changeable weather throughout 2018 had resulted in many weather warnings.

Seven states of emergency were declared in February.

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