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Posts Tagged NIWA

Climate modelling on your PC: weather@home comes to NZ and Australia Gareth Renowden Mar 27

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Climateprediction

That’s a climate model running on my iMac, thanks to BOINC, Climateprediction.net, and the new New Zealand and Australia modelling experiment launched yesterday. In this guest post, Dr Suzanne Rosier of NIWA explains what it’s all about…

A new citizen science experiment in which scientists will address possible links between climate change and extreme weather in Australia and New Zealand was launched on Wednesday. ANZ runs as part of the highly successful climateprediction.net project based at the University of Oxford, which makes state-of-the-art climate models available for anyone with a PC and an Internet connection to download and run on their computer. The global model contains within it a much more detailed model of the Australia/New Zealand region, detailed enough to model weather events properly, and the ‘2-in-1’ model needs to be run many thousands of times if scientists are to have a chance of capturing the very rarest weather events. This takes a huge amount of computing power – and you can help by volunteering your computer.

The model runs in the background on your machine, taking up any processing power that happens to be spare, but not interfering with your work. When your computer has finished crunching the results are automatically uploaded to a server at the University of Tasmania. If you take part in the project you also have the option to see how the model you are running on your machine is progressing. Many thousands of generous volunteers have already taken part in climateprediction.net, running global models, and , running regional models for other parts of the world. This is your chance to get involved and help scientists to gain a better understanding of what is happening to weather in Australia and New Zealand region as the climate changes.

The experiment launched today will produce many thousands of different simulations of how the weather in 2013 might have been, both with and without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This will enable scientists to put some hard numbers on how the risks of extreme weather events might — or might not — be changing as a result of the human contribution to global climate change. Scientists at NIWA will focus initially on the severe North Island drought of January to March 2013, but later the record-breaking warmth of last year’s winter will also come under scrutiny. Extreme rainfall events, such as that in Golden Bay and Nelson in December 2011 and the recent floods in Christchurch, will also be investigated as the ANZ experiment continues.
The more people who participate, the more science can be done. Please go to ‘weatherathome.net’ – sign up, and start crunching numbers.

Gareth adds: Suzanne does an excellent job of introducing the project in this video:

Read more about the project at Climateprediction.net, The Conversation, and NIWA. If anyone’s interested in running an NZ climate team, let me know. For some background to the difficult statistics of extreme weather events, I highly recommend this recent article by Stefan Rahmstorf at RealClimate. The ANZ models will run (via BOINC, the framework for distributed processing developed at Berkeley and used in a wide variety of distributed computing projects such as or ) on most recent releases of Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Lost in the flood Gareth Renowden Mar 09

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CantyfloodsNASAEO

This morning’s NASA Earth Observatory image of the day shows the impact of last week’s heavy rain in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula on the sea around. The light blue colours show sediment washed off the land. If you visit the EO page, they provide a helpful reference image: the region snapped from space in late February, when there’s no sign of any sediment at all.

The heavy rain brought flooding to many parts of Christchurch, as NASA notes:

Christchurch’s flood control infrastructure has been under increasing pressure in recent years because a series of earthquakes struck the area in 2010 and 2011. According to University of Canterbury researchers, the quakes caused land in some areas to drop, while narrowing and uplifting certain river channels. The result is an increased risk of flooding.

This rainfall map from NIWA shows rainfall over the last 15 days (right) compared with the average for the same period (left) and the anomaly (centre). The rain event is immediately obvious as the blue thumb sticking out of the South Island east coast:

CantyfloodsNIWA15day

The Weather Underground’s Christopher Burt provides numbers for the storm:

The powerful storm pounded the Christchurch area between March 3-5 with wind gusts up to 119 km/h (74 mph) and rainfall of 151.6 mm (5.97”) as officially measured at Christchurch’s weather station. Of this amount 100 mm (3.94”) fell in just a single 24-hour period on March 4-5. The suburb of Lyttelton received 160 mm (6.30”) in 24 hours and other suburbs reported storm totals of 170 mm (6.70”). The normal monthly rainfall for Christchurch in March is just 45 mm (1.77”).

For a selection of pictures, see these galleries at Stuff.co.nz: Christchurch, Lyttleton and Banks Peninsula.

The severe flooding in parts of Christchurch – notably the “Flockton Basin” – was caused or made worse by a number of factors. The earthquake sequence caused ground levels to fall by up to half a metre in parts of the eastern suburbs and along the Avon River (see map here), raised and narrowed river and stream beds and damaged or destroyed storm water infrastructure. Add to that a heavy rainfall event that would have taxed the drainage system in pre-quake times, not to mention the tail end of a sequence of high spring tides causing water to back up in the estuary, and you have all the makings of a historic flood event.

Local and national politicians have rushed to promise action to address the flooding, but Christchurch’s problems will not be solved by a crash programme to defend homes that now flood every time there’s a rainstorm. Continuing sea level rise and increasing rainfall intensities — both already observed and projected to get much worse — suggest that serious consideration should be given to managed retreat in some areas, rather than rebuild and defend. How high should you make a stop bank when you expect sea level in a hundred years time to be a metre higher than now?

Christchurch is facing the sort of problems that all coastal cities are going to have to confront over coming decades, brought forward by the earthquake sequence that caused so much death and destruction. Unfortunately for the citizens of the city, the earthquake recovery programme is being overseen by Gerry Brownlee, a cabinet minister who is on the record as a climate sceptic. If he fails to consider the big picture, and neglects to plan for a future when the waters have risen far above today’s levels, then Christchurch will be even deeper trouble every time it rains old women and sticks1.

[Brooce, at his best.]

  1. Mae hi’n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn – It’s raining old ladies and sticks: Welsh idiom.

Memo to Brill and his NZ climate cranks: pay up or shut up Gareth Renowden Feb 04

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I suppose it had to happen. Jim Salinger’s excellent summary of the strange case of the climate cranks and their attempt to sue the New Zealand temperature record has attracted a response from deep inside La La Land. Barry Brill, chairman of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition and litigant in chief, has posted a piece of piss-poor propaganda trying to make their actions seem reasonable. He fails spectacularly, as you might expect — but he also fails to mention the most salient fact of all.

Brill is the ex-lawyer who put the losing court case together. He, together with the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust — Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades — are in default of the costs awarded against them by the judge. It’s a cool $89,000, and if Brill et al don’t pay up, the NZ taxpayer will have to foot their bill. As one of those taxpayers, I object strenuously to funding their absurd political posturing.

Brill, Leyland, Dunleavy et al would do well to remember that in the “court of public opinion” people who welch on their debts and try to avoid the consequences of their actions are regarded as mountebanks and charlatans. They should shut up until they’ve paid up.

Salinger upsets cranks: Treadgold’s toys exit cot Gareth Renowden Jan 27

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Jim Salinger’s analysis of the climate crank campaign to cast doubt on New Zealand’s long term temperature record, published last week at The Conversation, has drawn an astonishing response1 from Richard Treadgold (left), the man who kicked off the whole sorry process over four years ago. In an intemperate and libellous comment at his web site, Treadgold accuses Salinger of deception, stupidity and questions his mental stability:

Painting our efforts as some kind of attack on science is stupid. Salinger is either mentally unstable or he’s trying to hide his deceptive treatment of the national temperature records. We asked for details. You’re obviously hiding something if you call that anti-science.

The truth, of course, is that Treadgold and his friends at the Climate “Science” Coalition have spent the last four years quite deliberately attacking Salinger and the science team at NIWA by alleging they acted to deliberately overstate warming in New Zealand. They’ve taken their case to the High Court, and lost. Now they’re running away from facing the legal consequences, by refusing to pay court-ordered legal costs and leaving the NZ taxpayer to foot the bill2.

This has never been about science. It has always been a political campaign, as Treadgold himself acknowledged when he admitted to the “essentially political objectives of our paper”. Having the lost the argument, he’s now behaving like a spoilt child, throwing a hissy fit at Salinger for telling an uncomfortable truth. His pettiness even extends to posting articles suggesting that Salinger’s affiliations with the Universities of Auckland and Tasmania may be false3.

The last line of his typically prolix comment is interesting.

Finally, it’s insufficient that you merely repeat Salinger’s empty allegation of ‘errors’ in our audit. If you want us to respond to the allegation, specify the errors.

The hypocrisy evident here is breathtaking. The “audit” refers to a reconstruction of the NZ temperature record produced by Treadgold’s Coalition pals4 that was submitted as evidence in their High Court case. Treadgold and the CSC know perfectly well that NIWA found significant errors in that reconstruction, because a detailed description of those errors formed an important part of NIWA’s evidence produced in court.

If Treadgold and the CSC are so sure that their “audit” is faultless, why do they not submit it for peer review at an academic journal? I’m sure that Chris de Freitas, never averse to lending his academic weight to the climate crank cause, would be willing to act as lead author and help to usher it past peer review, as he has done for so many papers over the years. I hear that Pattern Recognition in Physics could have a new publisher who might be interested. In the meantime, if Treadgold has any sense of decency he will apologise to Salinger for so maligning an honest man. Past history would suggest that I should not hold my breath.

  1. Web cited so that he can’t “disappear” the evidence.
  2. I will have a great deal more to say on this issue, unless and until Barry Brill, Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades pay the costs awarded against their shonky trust
  3. They aren’t.
  4. Statistical Audit of the NIWA 7-Station Review, NZCSC, July 2011, available here.

When climate cranks lose at law: Salinger on the failed attempt to sue the NZ temperature record Gareth Renowden Jan 23

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If you do nothing else today, take the time to read Jim Salinger’s account at The Conversation of the attempt by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate deniers to cast doubt on the country’s temperature record. It’s a useful summary of the cranks’ ludicrous effort, but Jim points out that it is just a small part of a much larger global PR campaign — drawing heavily on the strategies and tactics first used by the tobacco lobby — to undermine action to reduce emissions:

Earlier this month, the news broke that major tobacco companies will finally admit they “deliberately deceived the American public”, in “corrective statements” that would run on prime-time TV, in newspapers and even on cigarette packs.

It’s taken a 15-year court battle with the US government to reach this point, and it shows that evidence can trump doubt-mongering in the long run.

A similar day may come for those who actively work to cast doubt on climate science.

Frankly, that day can’t come soon enough.

Meanwhile, the latest news on the attempt by the men behind the trust used to bring the legal action — the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, fronted by Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades — to dump the costs of their failed case on the New Zealand taxpayer is that the official liquidator rates the “prospect of dividend” – that is, a payout by the trust — as “unlikely”. In the latest report (pdf) posted at the Companies Office1, the liquidator comments that he has only be able to contact one of the NZCSET trustees and that “he has thus far been co-operative with the liquidation”. If the other two trustees are not helpful, the liquidator warns that “they will be summonsed to attend a meeting to provide the necessary information”.

It may be that Christmas and summer holidays is slowing down the process, but if the NZCSET trustees are being deliberately unhelpful, I hope the Insolvency Service uses all of its powers to make them comply with the law. These men have wasted large amounts of taxpayer money pursuing their idiotic political agenda, and must be made to pay for their folly.

  1. Go to the Societies and Trusts Online section, click search register, then use the NZCSET registration number – 2539286 – to find the documents.

NZ climate cranks’ trust folded, Brill et al try to escape justice Gareth Renowden Jan 12

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The New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust (NZCSET), the body established three years ago to bring a legal case against the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), has been put into liquidation without paying the costs awarded against it after its case failed — confirming my suspicion when the trust was formed that it had been created purely to protect the litigants from the consequences of a failed action. The NZCSET owes NIWA at least $89,238.90, but Steve Kilgallon at the Sunday Star Times reports that no monies have been paid:

NIWA chief executive John Morgan said it was still considering pursuing two of the trust’s key players – former wine journalist Terry Dunleavy, a Justice of the Peace and MBE, and retired lawyer Barry Brill, a former National MP – for the money, but was waiting for the liquidation process to finish.

He added: “On the surface it looks like the trust was purely for the purpose of taking action, which is not what one would consider the normal use of a charitable trust”.

Kilgallon also spoke NZCSET trustee Bryan Leyland:

Trustee Bryan Leyland, when asked about its assets, said: “To my knowledge, there is no money. We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities.”

Funding had come “from a number of sources, which are confidential”.

Leyland thus confirms — perhaps inadvertently — that the NZCSET was created solely to bring the court action, and to protect its own trustees from the consequences of their actions. It was apparently able to find “a large amount of money” to pay its lawyers to run the action, but not to pay the costs awarded against it.

A quick look back at some of the dates associated with the trust and its case against NIWA is instructive:

  • The NZCSET’s Statement of Claim against NIWA was filed in the High Court on July 5th 2010.
  • The NZCSET’s Deed of Trust is dated July 30th, so the trust did not exist at the time the case began.
  • The NZCSET’s registration as a trust was not granted until August 10th, shortly before news of the case hit the press.
  • In the two and a half years since the formation of the NZCSET there is no sign that the trust attempted to meet any of its stated educational objectives.

It is quite clear from the actions of the trust, and the glib statements made by its trustees, that it was never intended to do anything other than bring a case against NIWA. It was always a legal manoeuvre — an attempt to hide the perpetrators of a piece of politically and ideologically-inspired tomfoolery behind NZ trust law.

If NIWA decides not to pursue Dunleavy, Leyland and Brill for restitution of its legal costs, then the NZ taxpayer will have to pick up the bill. Even if funds are forthcoming, they will not cover the huge waste of scientist and management time spent in handling the case. Having failed to make warming go away by litigation, they must now face up to the heat of public outrage at their scandalous misuse of public money.

Prat watch #13: still crazy, after all these years Gareth Renowden Dec 02

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There’s a parallel world out there — the planet inhabited by climate cranks and deniers. It’s a world where you can say whatever you like, be as wrong as you like, be shown to be wrong repeatedly, even comprehensively lose court cases, and yet you never have to say you’re sorry, or admit to your mistakes. It seems incredible to those of us who have to deal with reality, but there are people out there who will hang on your every word and take it as gospel, however outrageously wrong it may be. The latest dazzling effulgence from the pen of Richard Treadgold is a fine example of the genre. And yes, he is still banging on about NIWA and the NZ temperature record:

First, for the serially dishonest critics of our persistence on this topic, let me explain (yet again) that we have never disagreed with the occasional need for adjustments, we merely wish to know how NIWA makes them.

The serial dishonesty on display is Treadgold’s own. Here’s what he had to say when he launched this sad fiasco back in 2009:

The shocking truth is that the oldest readings have been cranked way down and later readings artificially lifted to give a false impression of warming, as documented below. There is nothing in the station histories to warrant these adjustments… [my emphasis]

I struggle to see how this statement is congruent with Treadgold’s re-imagining of history in his latest post. But he’s capable of much worse, it seems…

After all these years, after questions in the Parliament, a court case and an aborted appeal, newspaper and blog articles, radio reports and private emails, NIWA scientists have still not told us how they make the adjustments.

That’s an outright lie. NIWA published an exhaustive account of the methods they used when calculating their latest long term NZ temperature record — which turned out to be more or less identical to the old one. There are 169 pages of excruciating1 detail — as Treadgold well knows, because he links to it from his article one paragraph later! The mind boggles at the mental — er, agility — required to contradict yourself so comprehensively in the space of so few words, in a post headlined Epic fail, NIWA! Your methods are a global secret.

The rest of Treadgold’s post is a vain attempt to drum up some sort of outrage about anodyne statements made by NIWA’s chairman. Given the comprehensive failure by Treadgold, Brill et al to gain any traction with their ludicrous assertions about NZ’s temperature record, it’s perhaps not surprising that they resort to blowing smoke to cover their embarrassment.

An illustration of the Treadgold/Brill view of the world comes from this sentence in Treadgold’s post:

NIWA’s secret methodology grossly overstates the country’s warming as 0.91°C per century—using data from seven long-term weather stations, it increased every one of them—an incredible failure of chance alone.

If the New Zealand climate wasn’t warming, then that might be the case. But we know from other evidence — such as the shrinkage of NZ’s glaciers — that the climate has been warming. Seeing warming in the long term temperature record is exactly what you would expect. Physics and evidence trumps Treadgold’s naive interpretation of chance.

The Treadgold/Brill position, seen in the choice of words — the “secret methodology” that isn’t, that “grossly overstates” warming — only makes any kind of sense if you believe that NZ’s climate science community, and NIWA in particular, have somehow conspired to overstate warming in New Zealand.

That’s all the cranks have got left. There’s no science left to comfort them, no compelling evidence that doesn’t point to continuing warming, so they retreat into a fantasy world where everyone else is distorting the truth, and they are the sole guardians of some holy grail — the cup that cools.

Science is not done by fools and lawyers. It is not judged by courts or curmudgeons. It describes the uncomfortable reality in which the inhabitants of the world must live.

Meanwhile, one wonders if the trustees of the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, who brought the disastrous legal case against NIWA, have finally stumped up the costs awarded against them. If they haven’t, then the NZ taxpayer deserves to be told why not. That is a much more pressing question than any posed by Treadgold or Brill about NZ’s temperature record.

[Mr Simon, of course.]

  1. Sorry, Brett and the team!

Crusaders of the lost wallet: NZ’s climate cranks lose costs case Gareth Renowden Nov 12

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News reaches HT (hat tip to Rob Taylor) that the Appeal Court has rejected the NZ Climate “Science Education” Trust’s appeal for a reduction in the costs awarded against them when they lost their original case against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research over the New Zealand temperature record. This latest judgement finds that the NZCSET “did not act reasonably”, and has “mounted something of a crusade against NIWA’s records” (excerpts courtesy of Rob Taylor here).

The judgement comes as no surprise to members of the reality-based community, but the final failure of their futile finagling leaves Barry Brill, Richard Treadgold and the trustees of the NZCSET with questions to answer. I posed three, as yet unanswered, questions last time I covered this issue. To keep things simple for these bears of little legal brain, this time I’ll only ask two.

Are you planning to meet the costs awarded against you? If not, why do you think you should be above the law you so egregiously abused in bringing the case in the first place?

The trustees of the NZCSET are Bryan Leyland, Doug Edmeades and Terry Dunleavy. One rather hopes they have deep pockets…

The last refuge of scoundrels Gareth Renowden Oct 14

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Tomorrow, in the Appeal Court in Wellington (pdf), Justices Harrison, French and Miller will hear argument in the case of the NZ Climate Science “Education” Trust (NZCSET) versus the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), in the continuing effort of the cranks to litigate away warming in New Zealand over the last 150 years. According to the man who kicked off the whole process, Richard Treadgold of the “Climate Conversation” web site, the NZCSET bases its appeal on two main points:

The focussed grounds are that all three NIWA temperature series resulted from serious mistakes of fact, which impugned the rationality of the Crown Entity’s decisions.

This seems somewhat surprising, given that the judge in the original case was so scathing of the NZCSET’s expertise in his judgement delivered a year ago. One wonders how the Appeal Court will react to any attempt to relitigate the original decision, given Justice Venning’s findings. But then perhaps the whole appeal has rather more to do with the second basis for appeal:

The Coalition is also seeking reversal of the High Court’s costs order.

Costs of $118,000 were awarded against the NZCSET — a trust formed specifically to bring the original court case, and which did not legally exist until weeks after the original court documents were filed. Could it be that the trustees of the NZCSET, being Terry Dunleavy, Bryan Leyland and Doug Edmeades1, aren’t happy to pay the costs incurred by their leader and legal eagle, Barry Brill? One hopes that they’re not planning to fold the trust in the event that their appeal isn’t successful, thus avoiding having to pay NIWA’s costs. After all, they founded the trust with lofty aims:

… to promote a heightened awareness and understanding of, and knowledge about, the climate, environment and climate and environmental issues among scholars and researchers, members of the professions and members of the public… (see Sec 4.1.1 of the certificate)

I have a few questions for the trustees:

  • How much money has the trust disbursed amongst scholars and researchers since it was established on July 30, 2010? Over three years of fund raising and charitable endeavour has surely delivered more than a footling little court case?
  • In what ways, other than by bringing an unsuccessful court case, has the trust “heightened awareness and understanding of climate”?
  • In the event that you are unsuccessful in your appeal, are you planning to pay up in full for the costs awarded against you by Justice Venning? If not, why not?

I eagerly await assurances from the NZ Climate Science Education Trust that their laudable education effort continues, and that it has adequate funds to meet the costs they’ve incurred by taking NIWA to court. No doubt they will have plans for further and more productive education efforts in the near future. But I won’t be holding my breath…

Update: Tuesday 15th @ 3-50pm

Word reaches me that the NZCSET have just capitulated and abandoned their appeal against Justice Venning’s decision — in other words, a comprehensive victory for NIWA and a further vindication of the work done by their team on the NZ temperature record. The Appeal judges have reserved their judgement on costs, but it’s possible that the NZCSET’s legal bill might just have increased a fair bit.

  1. According to the certificate of incorporation: go here, click on Register Search, insert 2539286 in the appropriate box, and click “search”.

The big warm: NZ heading for warmest-ever winter Gareth Renowden Aug 26

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If you think it’s been a warm winter in New Zealand, you’re right. NZ is rapidly approaching the end of a record-breaking winter — the warmest for at least 150 years1. Calculations by Auckland climate scientist Jim Salinger show that NZ’s average temperature for June/July/August is running at 9.5ºC, a remarkable 1.2 deg C above the 1971-2000 average, and comfortably ahead of 1998′s old record of 9.3ºC. Commenting on the numbers, Salinger notes the absence of cold snaps in recent months:

The door to cold spells from the Southern Oceans — apart from a brief surge in June — has been well and truly closed this winter. September-like temperatures have been occurring throughout August, giving the country its warmest winter and August ever.

The long term warming signal is clear, he says:

The clearest climate warming signal is seen in winter, where temperatures are now 1.1 deg C warmer than they were around 1870. The warming trends have been very consistent, especially since the 1950s, when frosts days have decreased dramatically across the country.

I can certainly vouch for the absence of frost. At Limestone Hills, we recorded 19 frost days in 2011 and 23 in 20122, but only 6 so far this year. Evidence of winter warmth can be seen in gardens around the country. The asparagus spear pictured above first poked its head out of our soil two weeks ago, and is now being joined by half a dozen more — at least a month earlier than normal for North Canterbury.

To unpick just why this winter’s been so warm, I asked VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick to look back at the atmospheric circulation set-up in the New Zealand region. Here’s his (lightly edited) analysis:

For the winter as whole:

Pressures were anomalously high to the east of New Zealand, weakened westerlies. Unusually low pressures down over the far south central Pacific. 1000-500hPa mean temperatures were 1-1.5 deg C above normal over New Zealand. The NIWA outlook for winter temperature was near-perfect!

For August:

Anomalously high pressures southeast of New Zealand, linked to a negative Southern Annular Mode (SAM) signature. Northerly flow anomalies over New Zealand. 1000-500hPa mean temperatures around 2 deg C above normal over New Zealand. You can see a warm ‘tongue’ extending from subtropics to Antarctic, at the longitudes of New Zealand.

When I contacted Jim R for his take on the winter, I noted that the Antarctic sea ice — which in recent years has tended to “bulge” north towards New Zealand — is reduced to our south, but unusually far north in the Pacific to the west of South America. He found that a strong northerly flow anomaly over Ross Sea ( giving anomalously warm air there), southerly over Amundsen/Bellingshausen (anomalously cold there), helped to produce that sea ice pattern.

Jim R’s conclusion:

So, it has been a warm winter, brought about by persistent anticyclones east of New Zealand, a combination of the negative SAM (at times) and the tendency for zonal wave 3 ridges3 to sit near the Date Line. Lots of northerly wind flow anomalies over New Zealand, associated with persistently warmer than normal air.

Across the Tasman, Australia has also had an unusually warm winter, and 2013 is shaping up to be the country’s hottest year on record. The NZ record, with updated numbers, will be officially confirmed by NIWA in early September.

Listen to Jim S discussing the record on RNZ National’s Morning Report:

Warmest winter on record

  1. Reliable temperature records in NZ date back to the 1860s.
  2. For the full year. Frost days are any day where the temp falls below zero, and are unusual (1 – 2 a year) after August.
  3. Aka Rossby waves. Zonal waves can be considered as persistent “wiggles” in the jetstream that affect the way that surface weather systems track around the world. Jim will be giving a talk on ZW3 at AGU in December.

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