New Zealand Records Warmest-Ever June as Ski Resorts Struggle
New Zealand finished its warmest June on record. Experts say they expect the warming trend to continue and predict the country will experience shorter winters in the future.
The average temperature in June was 10.6 degrees Celsius, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, or NIWA, reported this week. That was 2 degrees Celsius above the 30-year average for June. It is also more than 0.3 degrees Celsius higher than previous records set in 2003 and 2014. Record-keeping began in 1909.
Gregor Macara is a climate scientist at the government-run NIWA. He told The Associated Press that one reason for the record was an increase in winds coming from the warmer north, rather than the Antarctic south. In addition, ocean temperatures are unusually warm.
Macara added that while the weather might change from month to month, "the underlying trend is of increasing temperatures and overall warming."
The average temperature in New Zealand has increased by about 1 degree Celsius over the past 100 years, Macara said. If this trend continues, people can expect later and warmer winters, followed by earlier springs.
The situation is putting pressure on ski resorts a week away from when many students take their winter school holidays. Photographs from several of the larger resorts showed rocks and earth under only a little bit of snow. Some resorts have used snowmaking machines to open some runs, but many lifts remain closed.
Paul Anderson is the head of NZSki, which operates Coronet Peak, Mt. Hutt and The Remarkables ski resorts.
"We'd always like a bit more snow on the ground," he said. "But we've got some good snow arriving tomorrow, and then a cool four or five days for snowmaking."
Anderson said his company has been dealing with the changing weather by investing in more snowmaking equipment and ski lifts that can handle high winds.
"It's really clear that climate change is a reality. You can't argue with that science," Anderson said. "But it is over a very long period of time."
Some farmers are happy with the warmer weather.
Jim Galloway is with the advocacy group Federated Farmers. He told the AP this year "has been a godsend."
The warmer weather and rain has finally permitted some grass to grow, providing food for sheep and cows, he said. His area has experienced two years of drought conditions.
"It's helped a lot, but there's a long way to go," Galloway said. "There's not a lot of ground water. The dams are still empty, basically."
Galloway added that droughts are nothing new for farmers. But he worries that a warming climate is making them happen more often.
I'm Dan Novak.