Otago Region - Climate

Climate

Weather conditions vary enormously across Otago, but can be broken into two broad types: the coastal climate of the coastal regions and the more continental climate of the interior.

Coastal regions of Otago are subject to the alternating warm and dry/cool and wet weather patterns common to the interannual Southern oscillation. The Southern Hemisphere storm track produces an irregular short cycle of weather which repeats roughly every week, with three or four days of fine weather followed by three or four days of cooler, damp conditions. Drier conditions are often the result of the northwesterly föhn wind, which dries as it crosses the Southern Alps. Wetter air is the result of approaching low-pressure systems which sweep fronts over the country from the southwest. A common variant in this pattern is the centring of a stationary low-pressure zone to the southeast of the country, resulting in long-lasting cool, wet conditions. These have been responsible for several notable historical floods, such as the "hundred year floods" of October 1878 and October 1978.

Typically, winters are cool and wet in the extreme south areas and Snow can fall and settle to sea level in winter, especially in the hills and plains of South Otago. More Central and Northern Coastal areas winter is sunnier and drier. Summers, by contrast, tend to be warm and dry, with temperatures often reaching the high 20s and low 30s Celsius.

In Central Otago cold frosty winters are succeeded by hot dry summers. Central Otago's climate is the closest approximation to a continental climate anywhere in New Zealand. This climate is part of the reason why Central Otago vineyards are successful growing is this region. This inland region is one of the driest regions in the country, sheltered from prevailing rain-bearing weather conditions by the high mountains to the west and hills of the south. Summers can be hot, with temperatures often approaching or exceeding 30 degrees Celsius; winters, by contrast, are often bitterly cold - the township of Ranfurly in Central Otago holds the New Zealand record for lowest temperature with a reading of -25.6 °C on 18 July 1903.

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