Fiordland’s rugged terrain can cause some unusual and unpredictable weather. Yet it is this quality that gives Fiordland its unique character. A seemingly benign scene can have an even greater and startling impact when it is transformed by torrents of rain into a scene that is quite memorable not only to the eye, but also the ear!
Fiordland’s climate is rigorous. The gale force winds of the Roaring Forties are respected and feared by seafarers everywhere - harass the mountain lands and fiords in the west and bring vast quantities of rain to the ranges. And when told that Milford Sound averages over 7200 mm of rain a year, visitors understand why Fiordland is described as one of the wettest places on earth. And they may appreciate that the rugged climate is a principal reason for the region’s wild scenic grandeur.
The mountains are often swathed in broiling dark clouds which bustle in with the strong southwester lies which predominate in the fiords of the south and west. These winds reach gale force for up to 6 months of the year. East of the mountains west and northwest winds predominate. In summer a blustery northwesterly is often accompanied by mild to warm temperatures.
Rainfall is high - up to 250 mm or more rain has fallen in 24 hours - and east of the ranges frosts can be experienced for up to 4 months of the year.
So while Fiordland can be very cold, It is seldom very hot. Mean annual temperatures are low - between 7.5 and 10 °C - May to August being the coldest months, November to February the warmest. Sunshine hours total about 1600 annually and the temperature seldom rises above 25 °C - on no more, on average, than 5 days per year.
Average Daytime Temperatures
(In degrees celsius)
Curiously, some of the finest days of the year are during the winter months when days are crisp and clear. Also, the least rain falls during this period.
The mountains of Fiordland are what gives the area its changeable weather. As the westerly airstream rises over them, heavy rain is released at low levels in the west. As the air continues to rise, snow starts to fall on the upper slopes. At this altitude, air cools at the rate of 1 °C for 100m of height.
Clothes you wear about Fiordland should be warm and comfortable - especially during the winter months. A waterproof parka is advised. If you intend to go tramping or hiking extra consideration should be given to the type of clothing -woolen hats and a warm jacket is strongly recommended.
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