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'It is a concern' - NIWA forecaster says extreme weather, warm temperatures in 2020 consistent with climate change

"Yes, climate change is real." That was the message of National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research principal forecaster Chris Brandolino as he revealed 2020's annual climate summary today.

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For those disbelievers, Chris Brandolino says weather events in 2020 show how "it is real". Source: 1 NEWS

Last year, New Zealand continued to see warmer than average temperatures - the warmest winter on record and seventh warmest year on record.

As well, New Zealand saw adverse weather events, including state of emergencies declared and evacuations throughout the country for various flooding events, the lowest accumulation of snow near Mt Cook in 10 years and an "unusual" hail storm on Boxing Bay in Motueka.

Coupled with such intense rainfall events, though, New Zealand was also met with drought, which especially impacted the upper North Island.

"It was dryness here in Aotearoa that was one of the key themes of 2020, especially the first half of the year," Brandolino said.

Blenheim had a dry spell record of 64 days, the longest on record for the region. Cheviot came in second with 49 days.

2019's summary
New Zealand had its fourth hottest year on record in 2019 - NIWA

Auckland experienced 47 dry days in a row, the region's longest dry spell on record, prompting water restrictions which only recently eased.

But it's the long term changes which paint the true picture of climate change.

"It was a very warm year. It was in fact New Zealand's seventh warmest year on record, seventh warmest year ... what's notable about this seventh warmest year on record is this - of the eight warmest years on record, six of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2013," Brandolino said.

"This is consistent with climate change."

Breaking down the year by months, NIWA revealed six months in 2020 were above average temperature and the remaining six were near average - meaning none were below average.

In fact, New Zealand hasn't had a cooler than average month since January 2017 - four years.

2018's summary
Scorching 2018 was one of New Zealand's hottest years on record, NIWA says

The hottest temperature recorded last year was 38.2 degrees Celsius in Gisborne on January 3. The coldest was -12.3 degrees in Middlemarch on June 14.

For the climate change disbelievers, Brandolino said there had always been unusual weather patterns. "But with climate change in the background is just accelerates that. Grass grows by itself, we throw in fertiliser - it's going to grow better and faster," he explained.

"It is a concern, absolutely, because our temperatures continue to increase and they have increased by roughly a degree over the past 100 years.

"What we've seen this year [with the discussed extreme weather events], climate change has a role in that."

However, the impact of climate change wasn't just evident in New Zealand.

Brandolino said 88 per cent of the world experienced above average temperatures in 2020.

"Again consistent with climate change."

Looking ahead, New Zealand is in for more of the same, with data pointing to a warming climate and more extreme rainfall.

"Doesn't mean there won't be cool periods, but we think from this outlook that will not define the period [between now and March]," Brandolino said.

For the next decades, he said various reports point to a warming climate.

"There are a range of outcomes in terms of what we choose to do as a global society, but I would say at a very high level, that the expectation over the coming decades is for a warmer climate, is for a rise in sea level ... in addition to that, more extreme rainfall."