Since the Maori people named New Zealand ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, climate has been of paramount importance to the people of New Zealand — many of whom make their living from the land. New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderately high rainfall, and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country. Its climate is dominated by two main geographical features — the mountains and the sea.
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as —10°C in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The far north of the country has an average temperature of about 15°C, while the deep south has a cooler 9°C average. January and February are the warmest months of the year, and July is the coldest.
New Zealand does not have a large temperature range, lacking the extremes one finds in most continental climates. However, the weather can change unexpectedly — as cold fronts or tropical cyclones quickly blow in. Because of this, you should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and temperature if you’re going hiking or doing other outdoor activities.
Most places in New Zealand receive over 2000 hours of sunshine a year, with the sunniest areas — Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and Nelson/Marlborough — receiving over 2350 hours. As New Zealand observes daylight saving, during summer months daylight can last up until 9.00pm. New Zealand experiences relatively little air pollution compared to many other countries, which makes the UV rays in our sunlight very strong during the summer months. In order to avoid sunburn, visitors should wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they are in direct summer sunlight, especially in the heat of the day (11am — 4pm). While summer is sunnier than the other seasons, most regions in New Zealand have a relatively high proportion of sunlight during the winter months.
The highest temperature ever recorded in New Zealand was 42°C, in Marlborough, Christchurch, and Rangiora (in Canterbury). The lowest temperature ever recorded in New Zealand was —22°C at Ophir, Central Otago.
New Zealand’s average rainfall is high — between 640mm and 1500mm — and evenly spread throughout the year. As well as producing areas of stunning native forest, this high rainfall makes New Zealand an ideal place for farming and horticulture.
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