According to data provided by New Zealand's NIWA, January was the hottest month the country has seen in 150 years. In addition, with 3.1 °C (5.58 °F) above average, New Zealand just had its largest temperature anomaly on record. The country is now experiencing cooler temperatures after Ex-Tropical Cyclone Fehi slammed into its South Island on February 1.
Dr. Jim Salinger, who pioneered Niwa's benchmark seven-station series, used to analyze climate trends, said January's temperature had come in at a scorching 20.2 °C (68.36 °F) - 3.0 °C (5.4 °F) above average. "This makes it the warmest of any month in reliable temperature records dating back to 1867," Salinger said February 1.
NIWA confirmed the record today at 20.3 (68.54 °F) and 3.1 °C (5.58 °F) above average, saying it was the largest temperature anomaly on record.
The previous hottest month was February 1998 with 19.61 °C (67.29 °F). The previous hottest January was the one in 1956 with 19.01 °C (66.21 °F).
It's OFFICIAL -- January 2018 was New Zealand's HOTTEST month on record since at least 1909 according to NIWA's seven station series— NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) February 2, 2018
Nationwide mean temperature: 20.3°C
Difference from average: +3.1°C [the largest anomaly on record] pic.twitter.com/zQLFYvwr68
"High temperatures were the story of January, with temperature records broken across New Zealand. However, February is starting in a much more unsettled vein," MetService reported.
"It's a very windy and wet start to the month for many parts of New Zealand. Although the heaviest rainfall is expected over Westland and Fiordland, there are plenty of Severe Weather Watches and Warnings in force across the country," MetService Meteorologist John Law said February 1.
Along with strong winds, bursts of heavy rain and thunderstorms are likely today, especially for the west of New Zealand.
Although the weather is set to improve for Friday, temperatures will take a tumble as this system pulls away to the south.
"For much of January we sat beneath a very warm, humid air mass. Once this system pulls away, however, we find our winds swinging back to the south and bringing the return of much cooler, less humid air," Law explained.
While the return of cooler air will be welcomed by many, those heading out into the backcountry over the Waitangi Day long weekend should be especially aware of the swing in temperatures.
"Anyone planning a tramp, sail or kayak should keep a close eye on the forecasts this weekend, and make sure you've got extra layers of clothing with you," recommended Law.
The returning southwesterlies will also bring some showers across New Zealand for the weekend and for Te ra o Waitangi, Waitangi Day.
"It's going to be feeling a lot cooler this weekend and into Waitangi Day. While we still have some showers in the mix, there will be plenty of sunny spells too, especially along the west coast and for the Bay of Plenty," Law added.
Featured image credit: NIWA