Coastal sea temperatures around New Zealand well above average

Coastal sea temperatures around New Zealand have risen well above average recently, a National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) meteorologist said on Tuesday.

Meteorologist Ben Noll said that water temperatures have ranged from 1.1-1.4 degrees Celsius above average for November, with daily sea surface temperatures more than 3 degrees Celsius above average around the western and northern North Island and eastern South Island over the last week.

Marine heatwave conditions, classified when the sea temperature is above the 90th percentile for at least five days, have been observed in waters offshore of all regions of New Zealand.

This is comparable to the conditions observed in November 2017, which marked the beginning of an unprecedented marine heatwave around the country and in the Tasman Sea, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Frequent patterns of high pressure near and south of New Zealand during November, owing to La Nina, have caused more frequent sub-tropical, northeasterly winds than normal. Reduced wind speeds through the month have prevented colder, subsurface ocean waters from getting mixed up to the surface. In addition, sunshine has generally been above normal, which has helped to heat the ocean surface,” Noll said.

Marine heatwaves are becoming increasingly frequent in a warmer climate with 963 marine heatwave days observed in the New Zealand region between 2010-2019 compared with 366 between 2000-2009.

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