Surely this has got to be the wettest end to the year on record… right?
In Auckland it has been raining, endlessly, for what seems like days, weeks, months. Did it ever not rain? I can’t remember a time.
It’s raining so much I’m thinking about building an ark. But before I put my non-existent woodwork skills to the test, I call Metservice.
“Let me dive into some data,” responds Lewis Ferris, a communications meteorologist at the nationwide weather institution. I’m the first reporter to call and ask about the rain, but already this week five others have been in touch to ask for his Christmas Day weather predictions.
They jumped the gun. It’s too soon to make a call. “We can check that on Friday,” says Ferris. “Call me then.”
I’m willing to make the call now: it’s probably going to rain.
Look at this week’s seven-day forecast for rain and thunderstorms in Tāmaki Makaurau and tell me there is a hope in hell the sun will shine on Christmas Day, or, perhaps ever again.
I wait for Ferris to come back with data that confirms my theory that it was the wettest November on record, that December is going to be the same, that summer is ruined, that it will always rain from now on, my washing will be damp forever, and soon we will join Kevin Costner in his Waterworld row boat, bartering for potatoes and paper with our waterborne neighbours.
But two hours later, Ferris calls back to tell me something truly shocking: “Central Auckland, heading southwards, is about normal,” he says. “It’s even just on the drier side.”
Just so we’re clear: despite weeks of endless rain, enough to make a reporter call someone who knows far more than he does about this, according to the Metservice’s Ferris, this is all fine and normal.
How? Perception. Yes, it might be raining every day, but there’s not actually that much rain falling. It’s sporadic, off-and-on, and that precise level of actual rainfall is what Metservice measures, not the number of times I’ve frowned while looking out the window. “It feels like it’s really wet, really rainy,” he says. “The story is there just hasn’t been a huge amount of rain.”
Also playing into this is perception, something Ferris admits is a personal bugbear of his, “we always get to December and people are like, ‘Yay, it’s the start of summer, the weather’s going to be perfect now,’ and that’s just not true and has never been true,” he says. “People … expect those beach days to be happening almost every other day, but that’s not always the case.”
That’s not to say that some parts of Aotearoa aren’t experiencing more rain than normal. Stewart Island, Timaru, Marlborough Sounds, Coromandel and Northland are all “running wet” says Ferris. The only part of Auckland that’s a little more damp than normal is further north, beyond Whangaparāoa.
Just as I’m about to hang up, Ferris has some bad news. “I almost didn’t want to tell you,” says Ferris, but he does anyway. “Sadly … what we’ve been seeing the last couple weeks is kind of what will happen potentially through December and into January.” That’s because of La Niña, an oceanic phenomenon now into its third year.
Can we do anything about this? Ferris says he’s crossing his fingers. “I’m hoping we will actually get some decent periods of high pressure conditions… to have some of that typical summer weather. There will be the potential for some heavy rain bands or really random lows coming down from the north.”
Pack the wet weather gear for your Christmas camping trip. It’s almost – almost – enough to make you want to move to Wellington.