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New Zealand records warmest June in history as ski slopes battle

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WELLINGTON: New Zealand posted its warmest June since records began as ski slopes struggle to open up and experts predict shorter southern winters in the future.
A variety of factors led to the record, including more winds coming from the milder north rather than south of Antarctica, and unusually warm ocean temperatures, said Gregor Macara, a climate scientist at the government-owned National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research. .
He said the vagaries of the weather will change from month to month. “ But the underlying trend is rising temperatures and general warming, ” Macara said.
The average temperature in June was 10.6 degrees Celsius (51 Fahrenheit), the research agency reported Monday. That’s 2 degrees C above the 30-year average for June and more than 0.3 C higher than the previous record set in 2003 and again in 2014. Record keeping began in 1909.
Macara said the average temperature in New Zealand had risen by around 1 C over the past century. He said that if the trend continues, people can expect later and milder winters, followed by earlier springs.
The situation is putting pressure on the ski slopes within a week of many students taking their winter school holidays. Snow chambers at several of the larger resorts show exposed rocks and ground splattered with a layer of snow on many slopes. Some fields have used snowmaking machines to open some slopes and keep other elevators closed.
Paul Anderson, CEO of NZSki, which operates Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and The Remarkables ski fields, was optimistic.
“ We would always like a little more snow on the ground, ” he said. “ But tomorrow there is some good snow, and then four or five fresh days to make snow. ”
Anderson said his company has been adapting to changing conditions by investing in snowmaking equipment and elevators that can withstand high winds.
“ It is very clear that climate change is a reality. You can’t argue with that science, ” Anderson said. “But it is a very long period of time.”
Some farmers have welcomed the more temperate climate.
“ This year has been a godsend, ” said Jim Galloway, provincial president of the Hawke’s Bay advocacy group Federated Farmers.
He said that’s because the warm weather coupled with the rain has finally allowed some grass to grow, providing food for sheep and cattle. That follows two years of drought conditions in his region.
“ It has helped a lot, but there is a long way to go, ” Galloway said. “ There is not much groundwater. The dams are still empty, basically. ”
And Galloway said that while droughts are nothing new to farmers, he worries that warmer weather will make them happen more often.
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