Heavy rain warning for West Coast

The nation's weather watchdog has placed a heavy rain warning for the South Island's West Coast as dry and warm conditions continue to bear down on the thirsty North Island.

It comes as Whangarei, Auckland and Wellington received just a few millimetres of rain since the Christmas period.

According to MetService data there has been no significant rainfall in the Auckland region since Christmas Day when 30.4mm was recorded.

Since then only 0.4mm of rain had fallen, on January 2.

Whangarei's last significant rainfall was 78mm on Christmas Eve; since then 2.2mm had fallen collectively and Wellington's last dump was Christmas Day, 18.4mm, since then 1.2mm had fallen.

Conversely, in the South Island a front was expected to bring a period of heavy rain to the west of the island before weakening over central New Zealand on Thursday.

A heavy rain warning was in place for Westland south of Otira from 7pm tonight to 10am Thursday and for Fiordland from 4pm this afternoon to 4am on Thursday.

The front, preceded by a strong and moist northwesterly flow, would move on to Fiordland on Wednesday night and across the South Island during Thursday.

"There is high confidence of rainfall accumulations reaching warning criteria in northern Fiordland and Westland south of Otira on Thursday, and moderate confidence for northern Westland, Buller and western ranges of Nelson on the same day."

The dry conditions up north come as the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research confirms 2018 was the equal-second warmest year on record for New Zealand.

In its annual summary released yesterday, Niwa said 2018's mean of 13.41C was 0.8C above its records since 1909, equalling 1998.

It fell only to our most scorching year on record in 2016, 0.84C above average.

Niwa principal scientist Chris Brandolino said 2018 was part of a larger warming trend, with four of our past six years in the top five hottest years on record.

Many parts of the country recorded their warmest year on record, including, Kerikeri, Te Kuiti, Hastings, Levin, Wellington at Kelburn and Southwest Cape.

Brandolino said there were three main drivers of the warm temperatures.

The first was ocean temperatures, with New Zealand experiencing a "marine heat wave" in the first few months of the year. Some parts of the sea recorded temperatures 2C above average.

"New Zealand is an island nation, so where ocean temperatures go, they also go on land.

New Zealand also experienced more subtropical airflow in 2018, with many lows to the west and highs to the east driving northeast winds.

The increase in greenhouse gases, surpassing 400 parts per million, was the third factor, providing a "long-term tailwind to temperatures".

Your weather

Auckland: Fine. Light winds. High 27C Low 18C

Wellington: Fine until evening, then cloud increasing and northwesterly becoming strong. High 24C Low 18C

Christchurch: Fine apart from cloud morning and night. Northeasterlies, turning northwest late afternoon. High 28C Low 18C

Dunedin: Morning cloud, then fine before afternoon high cloud and possible rain. Northerlies. High 24C Low 13C

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