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HomeAus & NZNZ’s marine heatwave is back - forecasters predict ‘hot, sticky’ January

NZ’s marine heatwave is back – forecasters predict ‘hot, sticky’ January

'Quick read' news summary

By Jamie Morton of

Kiwi holidaymakers could be looking forward to an unusually hot and sticky January as the country is enveloped by a resurgent marine heatwave.

The balmy ocean temperatures, already up to 3C above average in some regions, will be welcome news for thousands of people fleeing the office and flocking to the beach.

But the elevated conditions may also worsen humidity in many places this summer, adding to uncomfortably hot days and nights.

Authorities are also warning of higher fire danger in many parts of the country, after months of rain and vegetation growth.

Water safety experts are also urging beachgoers to take extra care around the ocean, lakes and rivers, with the summer holidays representing the peak danger period for drownings.

Niwa forecaster Ben Noll said sea surface temperatures (SSTs) jumped in the past two weeks with coastal waters now running between 1C and 3C above average ahead of the busy holiday period.

“We’re looking at a moderate marine heatwave signal at present, with the opportunity to become something more severe in coming weeks.”

For beachgoers, a marine heatwave – defined by SSTs being at the upper bounds of historical observations for at least five days – meant noticeably balmier water.

But the heatwaves have also fuelled scorching days and nights, wildfires, glacier melt and a host of damaging effects for ocean life.

After seas warmed up over a record-hot November, they cooled around the start of this month, bringing a brief respite after two years of relentless marine heatwave conditions in many regions.

Now, Noll said, sea temperatures were soaring once more.

“It’s really warmed up over the past 10 to 14 days with the arrival of warmer air masses,” he said.

“We’re seeing anomalies in the order of 1-3C above average, pretty much right across the country, but the real hotspots are the west coast of

Kiwi holidaymakers could be looking forward to an unusually hot and sticky January as the country is enveloped by a resurgent marine heatwave. But the elevated conditions may also worsen humidity in many places this summer, adding to uncomfortably hot days and nights. For beachgoers, a marine heatwave - defined by SSTs being at the upper bounds of historical observations for at least five days - meant noticeably balmier water.

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