Monday, 7 March 2011

Let's Hear It For 'The Girl'

"It' Spring" said the cheerful voice of my friend from London as we connected via the marvels of Skype.

"Not here" said I, reflecting that the first of March marks the commencement of autumn, or Fall as the North Americans would describe it.

Having lived without seasons for four years in Singapore (if you discount 'wet' and 'dry' as seasonal variations), the change of seasons back in New Zealand is quite pronounced.

Rubber jandals are giving way once again to carpet slippers and the temperature at night makes for pleasant sleeping under a down duvet.

Usually we can count on a more settled time of year in March, but the effects of the La Niña weather patterns have put paid to such predictions.

According to Wikipedia, El Niño is Spanish for "the boy" and refers to the Christ child, because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America is usually noticed around Christmas. The name La Niña means "the girl" and is analogous to El Niño.

When I was young we had never heard of 'La Niña' or its counterpart 'El Nino'; the weather changed in autumn, got bitter in winter and warmed up again in Spring.

We had 'wet summers' and 'dry summers' that were commented upon by straw sucking yokels over the fence.  Spanish terms for weather were never uttered.

Weather dictated the farming cycles -  silage making, haymaking, 'drying off' the cows  - such was the rural rythmn of Taranaki.  We knew we had winter when Mt Egmont had snow and rugby was top of mind.

But being located in the Pacific as we are we are subject to the vagaries of the heating and cooling of that vast ocean - El Niño is the warming phase and La Niña the cooling.

El Niño guarantees more extremes in climate and we have seen such effects this summer as several tropical cyclones have skirted our eastern shores.  Thankfully by the time they get to our latitude they have reduced to storms and lost much of their power

This morning has dawned clear and cool after a 12 degree might temperature.  It is strange to reflect that the term 'cool' in Singapore referred to 26 degree temperature accompanied by very modest breeze.

Time to pull on the slippers.

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