Signs of an early spring

With July gone the worst of the winter is now behind us, and here in Dunedin it has been another fairly mild winter. There are signs of another early spring, the fifth year in a row that the season is weeks ahead of what had been normal.

We will get some more cold spells, we can get southerlies at any time of year, but the chances of a long cold spell are just about gone by now.

So far we’ve had the least snow I can remember for some time, a bit on the hills and a few flakes in the air but very little. And we’ve had only a handful of frosts, and they haven’t been hard. No road problems.

Weatherwatch:  Is this really winter? Because it feels more like early spring

It’s August 1st today and this is usually considered the true depths of winter, but across New Zealand we’re hearing it feels more like an early spring especially on a week with warmer than average weather.

I’ve never seen August as the depths of winter, for me that’s June and July. We are usually emerging from the worst of it by August. Especially in recent years.

Across New Zealand we’re getting reports of blossoms out, pasture suddenly growing and temperatures well above normal, not to mention lambs and calves being born, or even monarch butterflies hatching. Not only does it FEEL like spring but there are physical signs of spring in nature. It’s not just subjective.

The timing of lambs and calves has nothing to do with the weather at this time of year. Their timing is set well in advance of winter. Our ram usually gets active in April, so we get lambs in September regardless of the weather.

This isn’t the first year has declared an early start to spring. It’s happened every year for the past five years.

That’s how it’s been here. Daffodils are well on their way, trees are coming into bud, and grass is starting to grow again I mowed lawns in July for the first time ever. More mowed today.

So has winter officially ended early? No, we’re basically transitioning out of winter and into spring a few weeks early – which means we’re likely to have a longer spring. In mid August 2011 we had a snow storm that brought snow to downtown Auckland and the hills of Northland, so you can never say never – but the latest long range models indicate more southerlies next week but nothing polar at this stage. More days are frost free than have the risk of frost.

More days have been frost free than frosty here right through the winter. And it looks unlikely we will get anything other than the occasional touch possible from here.

So, looking forward to the onset of the annual refreshing and colourful growth of spring.

Is it a storm up north?

Despite the efforts of media to talk it up into a dramatic story this week’s weather in the south of the South Island has been pretty average for July, with nothing out of the ordinary.

Weather forecasts and warnings were fairly accurate although there seems to have been less snow than predicted.

This does accurately show a light smattering of snow on a hill.

The worst of the weather is forecast to be hitting the lower North island today:

Kim Hill just said “the winter storm that battered the South Island yesterday” is a typical ignorant overstatement.

But it may reach storm level up north – over to Your NZ North Island reporters…

Labour’s winter handout offer

This looks as much like an election bribe as any campaign policy.

Labour helps older New Zealanders and low income families with winter heating bills

Labour will further boost its commitment to warm, healthy housing with a Winter Energy Payment for superannuitants and people receiving main benefits, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little.

“Everyone deserves a warm, healthy home to live in. But that’s not the reality for many people today. Too many of our houses are poorly insulated, damp, draughty, and unheated. Around 1600 New Zealanders die each year because of cold housing – that’s four times the road toll. It’s time for a fresh approach to fix this.

“Labour will set standards to ensure rentals are fit to live in; we’ll use the savings from abolishing the speculators’ tax loophole to fund grants for families to install insulation and heating; and we’ll help older New Zealanders and low income families heat their homes in winter with the Winter Energy Payment.

“I have met retirees and solo mums who have told me that they can’t afford the power bills they face in winter, so they’re forced to leave heaters off. That makes them cold; it makes them sick. It puts people in hospital and costs lives.

“The AUT/HRV survey showing four out of 10 New Zealanders are turning off heaters to avoid high winter power bills shows there’s a real need for help.

“The Winter Energy Payment will be $700 for couples and parents with kids at home, and $450 for single people. Around one million people will benefit. The payment will be made in monthly instalments from May to September. With Labour’s fresh approach, our homes will be warmer, healthier places to live.

“The Winter Energy Payment forms part of Labour’s Families Package that we will unveil on Tuesday. Our plan shows how Labour will target low and middle income families and people in need, and tackle the crises in health and housing. In contrast, National would rather splurge on an election year tax bribe that goes disproportionately to the well-off.

“After nine years, now is the time to deal with the challenges we face in housing, health and education and help those in real need. Labour will get the balance right,” says Andrew Little.

This seems to be targeting voter demographics more than people in need, especially the superannuitants – Winston Peters and Annette King would appear to qualify.