Warmest June Ever in NZ, But Dumping Today!

If you thought it was a slow start to the snow season in New Zealand now you know why – the it was New Zealand’s warmest June on record according to NIWA, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Their temperature report for the month say the nationwide average temperature was 2.0°C above average.

Coronet Peak on June 16 no snowmaking possible © Coronet Peak

“This is just the 13th occasion since 1909 that a month achieved an anomaly of >1.9˚C relative to the 1981-2010 average. Temperatures were above average (0.51-1.20°C above average) or well above average (>1.20°C above average) throughout the country. Twenty-four locations observed their warmest June on record” says NIWA.

That translated into a lack of snow, rain instead of snow, and temps too warm for snowmaking for much of the time. Even usually reliable early-openers like Cardrona only finally opened with a small beginner area late June. That and a park remained all they had open as today’s storm moved in.

Treble Cone July 7 after the first big storm of winter
What a difference a day makes: Saddle Basin slathered after 50cm plus overnight 6/7 July © Treble Cone

While Australia was getting hammered by a series of massive low pressure systems sitting in the Tasman, that sucked cold air and bought snow up as far north as the Northern Tablelands, New Zealand was getting more sub-tropical moisture from the back side of those same systems.

June 2021 mean sea level air pressure was above normal to the east of Aotearoa New Zealand. This was associated with more northeasterly air flows than usual over the country. The prevalence of these air flows, occasional low pressure systems that transported warm, humid air down from the sub-tropics, and ongoing background warming from climate change meant it was a very warm start to winter throughout the country.  Temperatures were above average (0.51-1.20°C above average) or well above average (>1.20°C above average) throughout New Zealand. Overall, the nationwide average temperature in June 2021 was 10.6°C. This was 2.0°C above the 1981-2010 June average, making it New Zealand’s warmest June since NIWA’s seven station temperature series began in 1909.

Sketchy opening day cover at Treble Cone July 3, 2021
Opening day at TC – bring on the storm to cover that tussock! © Troy Tanner / Treble Cone

Only Mt Hutt has been offering a decent amount of ski terrain up to now, after coming out of the early June storm event with more snow than rain and kicking on from there making the most of snowmaking opportunities – their system is NZ’s most effective. They had a record opening day on June 11.

Treble Cone opened on the weekend, with just one run available thanks to snowmaking. But they are forecast to be the big winners out of the current storm system which will move quickly through Tuesday and Wednesday.

Over 80cm is forecast for the top level, about 40cm for the base after heavy rain .. let’s hope for less of that to see them more fully fired up – should be first pow day of the year there Wednesday!

80cm forecast for up top at Treble Cone will make a difference! © snow-forecast.com

Update 7 July: storm delivered on cue over 50cm! Main Basin opened, Saddle Basin following shortly:

Main Basin at Treble Cone July 7 after 50cm snowfoall overnight
now that’s more like it ! 7 July Main Basin at TC © Treble Cone

Longer term June warming trends will be bad for the Kiwi ski industry, but there is plenty of variety year to year, and quite amazing local variety within a fairly small area. For example, back in 2017, another slow start season, we were sitting in a Wanaka cafe contemplating the rain fall and digesting the news Treble Cone would not open for the season but finding Ohau, 90 minutes north, had copped 50cm overnight and were open .. off we motored.

Ohau look set to pick up 30cm or more from this storm, which will be welcome. They too opened on the weekend with limited snowmaking terrain open.

In the meantime, any NSW people booked to the Southern Lakes for the School Holidays have not missed much as long as they got a refund with the travel bubble paused.

Bring on the snow, the end of lockdown, and August/September. Or October for Mt Hutt and Ruapehu!