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Picturesque Dunedin: or Dunedin and its neighbourhood in 1890

Climate and Meteorology

Climate and Meteorology.

In almost all parts of the world, especially in the temperate regions, the state of the weather is a matter of very considerable importance, and for certain reasons, which will possibly hereafter become apparent, it is rather remarkably so in Dunedin. Such being the case, any publication under the title of "Picturesque Dunedin" would seem to be incomplete without some reference, be it ever so slight, to the prevailing climatic influences of the locality.

Dunedin, as will be remembered, is situated in latitude 46° south (nearly), while London is in the latitude of 51 ½° N.; and it may therefore be expected that being more than five degrees nearer the equator than the latter city, a milder climate, favourable to out-door pursuits, and the growth of all kinds of produce, would be experienced. Nor is this expectation disappointed, for although the summer heat of Dunedin rarely rises above 80° Fah in the shade, or 120° in the sun, the winter cold is also comparatively moderate, the thermometer seldom falling more than a degree or two below the freezing point; with the result, as given by the New Zealand Pilot for 1883, of a difference of three degrees in favour of Dunedin, on the average yearly temperature of 15 years.

The average rainfall in Dunedin is slightly less than that of. London and the south of England, as given by the same authority, namely—about 33 inches per annum here to 36 inches in London; sufficient, but not too much for agricultural requirements.

The winds in Dunedin and environs are extremely regular and persistent, with only slight variations from either the northeast or south-west. In winter it is for the most part calm, with. page 297an occasional gale from one or the other of those points of the compass.

To learn what the soil and climate are capable of doing in the way of garden produce, it is only needful to take a stroll into the suburbs in any direction, when, behind the close-clipped hedges—of hawthorn, laurel, macrocarpa, or holly—screening many neat dwellings, trim, well-kept gardens will be seen to present, from early spring to latest autumn, a bright display of those flowering plants and shrubs proper to the season. Nor is the fruit garden one whit behind: cherries, apples, pears, plums, peaches, are successfully cultivated, and with somewhat less-success, nectarines and grapes; and, of course, all kinds of currant and gooseberry bushes, flourish and bear abundantly.

But notwithstanding the general mildness of our winter season, there are occasional falls of snow—snowstorms they cannot be called—which may lie on the ground in a thin layer of one ox two inches in thickness, on the shady side of unfrequented streets, for a day, with probably one or two degrees of frost. This being a Scotch colony, we have a Curling Club, the members of which make frantic efforts on such occasions to enjoy their national game. But they do so under difficulties, for, possibly with the night's rain or the morrow's sun, the snow vanishes, the frost breaks, and the sanguine curlers are disappointed.

There do not seem to have been any very authentic records kept of the weather in Dunedin in the earlier years of the colony—at all events they are not accessible; but it is nearly certain that for at least the last forty years no winter was more severe than that of 1889, when the frost invaded many dwellings, and icicles of considerable size formed in bath-rooms and elsewhere for several nights in succession. Neither is it recorded that during any year so little rain fell and so much sunshine was enjoyed, as was the case during the winter and spring months of the same year. During the whole year only 17 inches of rain were registered, evidently out of all proportion to the average 33 inches.

It is not to be imagined that the climate has no weak points. People are apt to complain that it is always raining in Dunedin. This, of course, is a groundless complaint, seeing that the rain page 298fall is so comparatively slight. It must be admitted, nevertheless, that rains are frequent, if for the most part light, and an umbrella is by no means a superfluous article; indeed some of our more careful citizens rarely venture abroad without either an umbrella or a mackintosh. July, August, and September have come to be recognised as the months during which the most continuous rains may be expected, but this is not without exceptions.

There are others, again, who, with more justice, complain of our frequent winds. These, no doubt, occasionally test the condition of our roofs to the utmost, and if coming in autumn, as they sometimes do, the fruit-trees suffer severely. November, December, March, and April are the months during which these unpleasant visitors perform their highest jinks and sing their loudest songs. But, after all, taking these disagreeables at their worst, they are only exceptional, while our usual light breezes are healthful and invigorating, driving away miasma and purifying the atmosphere.

To sum up: It was, perhaps, after all, not without some reason that Mr. Maccabe, when asked, after his first visit to our shores, what was his opinion of the climate, replied," Climate ! Dunedin has no climate—only mixed samples." But, at the same time, it will be seen on reference to the table on page 299 that even in the worst years there are considerably more than one-half of the days in almost every month in which no rain falls, and on many of the instances noted a fair proportion are probably only showers of brief duration.

To the admirer of cloudland scenery, the streets in the upper portions of Dunedin afford frequent opportunity for the gratification of his favourite hobby. The variable climate brings with it an almost continual recurrence of sunshine and shade. Comparatively few days are entirely clear. Now, a heavy cloud overarches almost the entire hemisphere, and threatens possibly an early rain. Anon, a slight breeze springs up; the cloud breaks into many portions; the sun shines out from a patch of blue nearly overhead. Now a long and narrow stretch of azure appears over the south-western horizon, and presently the dispersing clouds, assuming, meanwhile, the most fantastic shapes, which may be interpreted according to the drift of the page 299beholder's imagination, as lions rampant, griffins, or eagles with wings outspread—as monstrous saurians or Milton's Apollyon, "lying many a rood," chase each other across the sky. Then the answering shadows flit past, as if in sportive humour, from the direction of the ocean, over the Peninsula, across the bay, and after showing themselves for a brief space on Signal Hill, vanish at length over the sloping sides of Mount Cargill.

The following table explains itself. It may be mentioned, however, that the thermometer used hangs in a passage, near the outer door (in the shade), and that the readings are taken at 9 a.m.

1887. 1888. 1889.
Rainfall. Thermometer average Rainfall. Thermometer average. Rainfall. Thermometer averge.
Days. Inches. Days Inches. Days. Inches
January 7 1.7 66 15 3.5 56 5 .7 66
February 5 2.3 66 6 2.1 55 1 .1 60
March 11 2.5 63 16 7.5 .53 13 3 58
April 12 2.3 57 17 1.5 50 9 1.5 50
May 19 3.5 46 11 3.5 48 5 1.1 49
June 10 4.7 46 8 1.3 45 8 1.5 42
July 9 2.7 44 11 6 36 5 1.5 42
August 15 3 45 15 7.7 44 3 1.1 49
September 15 4.5 43 4 .7 41 8 1.5 42
October 12 4.5 52 7 2.7 50 6 1.5 42
November 10 2.5 53 15 3.5 52 9 1.5 50
December 10 2.5 57 10 2.5 55 5 1.5 58
Totals 135 36.7 135 42.5 77 17
Average for year (fractious omitted) 53 48 51
page 300
Jan. Feb. Mar Apl. May June. July Aug Sep. Oct. Nov Dec.
In. In. In. In. In. In. In. In. In. In. In. In.
Maximum 30.2 30.3 30.1 30.4 30.3 30.2 30.3 30.4 30.2 30.2 29.9 30.3
Minimum 29.6 29.2 29.6 29.5 29.2 29.2 29.1 29.4 28.7 28.9 29.3 29.2
Maximum 30.0 30.2 30.1 30.3 30.3 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.3 29.9 29.9 30.1
Minimum 29.0 29.3 28.7 29.2 29.3 29.2 29.0 29.2 29.6 29.1 29.1 29.1
Maximum 30.1 30.2 30.4 30.3 30.3 30.3 30.3 30.6 30.1 30.2 30.2 30.1
Minimum 29.4 29.4 29.2 29.5 29.4 28.81 29.5 29.1 29.3 29.1 29.6 29.3
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* At 200 feet above sea level.