Our bummer summer
Wellington’s worst January for beach-goers in 30 years
The summer of 2017 will not be remembered fondly by the people of Wellington.
Regardless of whether you look at sunshine hours, wind speeds, rainfall or temperature, the capital’s summer has been unarguably the worst in years.
Beach-goers have particular reason to moan, with MetService data showing January had the fewest ‘‘beach days’’ of any summer dating back to 1987.
Defined as days with more than eight hours of cloudless sunshine and a temperature greater than 17 degrees Celsius, beach days for Wellingtonians numbered only eight – a poor show for a month that usually serves up twice that amount.
That statistic will not come as a complete shock to those in Wellington who experienced three significant lows in the space of a week in January, when gale-force winds disrupted flights, ferry crossings and public transport.
MetService meteorologist Lisa Murray said perceptions of this summer had not been helped by the previous two summers in Wellington being stand-outs for sunshine.
‘‘Even looking at the long-term average, this hasn’t been a good summer,’’ she said. ‘‘The chance of getting a warm day with no rain and light winds has been way lower than normal.’’
Anyone brave enough to have gone to the beach in Wellington this summer will have, more often than not, been greeted by strong winds and unusually chilly sea temperatures, Murray said.
‘‘In general, over the South Island and lower North Island, they have been 2C below average.’’
Some Wellington businesses that depend on the sun shining, have not fared so well as a result.
Crocodile Bikes owner Tony Christie said last year there was only a handful of days in January when his Oriental Bay bike hire business was either extremely slow or closed.
This year that number was about 15.
‘‘With the Wellington public if it’s a bad day they don’t come out, and if it’s a good day they all come out,’’ he said.
Karl Tiefenbacher, managing director of gourmet icecream and coffee retailer Kaffee Eis, said earnings across his four stores this summer had dipped by 33 per cent compared with last year.
‘‘It’s just a combination of more rain, more wind, and last summer we had a real treat. I’ve lived in Wellington all my life and that was one of the best ones I can remember,’’ he said.
‘‘I think we had this fake hope that summers were improving, but we’re just back to where we were two or three years ago.’’
But it’s not all bad news on the retail front, provided you have a roof over your head.
Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (Wreda) chief executive Chris Whelan said Te Papa has had one of its best Januaries, with about 197,000 people having popped into the museum for a look.
Wellington’s $2.3 billion tourism industry, in general, had not suffered that badly from the shocker summer, Whelan said. TSB Arena, Michael Fowler Centre and the St James Theatre all enjoyed their best January on record.
Visitor spending in Wellington grew by 3 per cent in December, he said.
‘‘The reality is that a bit of rain and wind just doesn’t stop people coming to visit.’’
Other parts of the country have also benefited from Wellingtonians escaping in the search of sun.
Hawke’s Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said accommodation and activity providers had seen a marked increase in clientele from the capital.
‘‘We have had, pretty much, record occupancy for January. I think that’s a combination of a number of things but weather is a big contributor.’’
Wellington’s weather is not expected to improve much either, with the same patterns expected to continue for the first two weeks of February.
The one faint glimmer of hope is Waitangi weekend. Today is expected to be fine with a high of 21C, and tomorrow could get warmer still.
The region’s luck fails on Monday, with cloud, gale-force winds and drizzle developing in the evening.
‘‘I think we had this fake hope that summers were improving, but we’re just back to where we were two or three years ago.’’ Karl Tiefenbacher, managing director of Kaffee Eis ‘‘With the Wellington public if it’s a bad day they don’t come out, and if it’s a good day they all come out.’’ Tony Christie, owner of Crocodile Bikes ‘‘The chances of getting a warm day with no rain and light winds has been way lower than normal.’’ Lisa Murray, MetService meteorologist
Is our view of this summer simply clouded by last year’s brilliance, or is it truly as grim as it feels? Ged Cann, with the help of MetService and Niwa, compares the predominant weather on each day this December and January with the previous season – and proves that the dark skies, less sun and lots of wet days of late are indeed raining on our parade.
Then and now: Below is the view of Wellington from the Northern Walkway on February 1 last year. Above is the same view on February 1 this week.