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Milford Sound, New Zealand Measures 2nd Wettest October on Record

By: Christopher C. Burt, 10:16 PM GMT on November 05, 2013

Milford Sound, New Zealand Measures 2nd Wettest October on Record

Traditionally considered New Zealand’s wettest location, Milford Sound recorded its 2nd wettest October on record with an astonishing 1,295 mm (50.98”) of rainfall this past October, more than double the average for the month. A stronger than normal westerly wind flow contributed to the prodigious amount of precipitation.



Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations. Westerly winds funnel moisture into the valley and a clear day like this is a relatively rare event. On average measurable precipitation falls 189 days of the year. Photographer not identified.

On average the airport at Milford Sound receives 6,715 mm (264.39”) of precipitation on an annual basis with 640 mm (25.21”) of this falling in October. It has a long POR dating back to 1930. Its greatest 24-hour total was 559 mm (22.00”) on April 17, 1939. This past October it measured 247 mm (9.72”) on October 21st. In 1988 Milford Sound picked up 9,232.3 mm (363.48”) of precipitation, its wettest year of record. Its wettest October, and also its single wettest month on record, was October 1988 when 1,917.4 mm (75.49”) was measured.



Climate data table for Milford Sound for the latest 30-year POR of 1981-2010. Data provided by NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research), New Zealand’s national climate agency.

Although the site is considered New Zealand’s wettest with a long POR (since 1930), another location several hundred miles further north, Cropp at Waterfall, has now officially been recognized as the new ‘wet spot’ for the nation with an average of 11,516 mm (453.38”) over the POR of 1982-2011. Cropp at Waterfall also now holds the national 24-hour precipitation record with 758 mm (29.84”) on December 27-28, 1989. In 1998 the site measured 16,617 mm (654.21”) of precipitation, the national record for wettest calendar year. The site is an automated rain gauge situated near a waterfall on the Cropp River, which is a tributary of the Whitcombe River in New Zealand’s West Coast District. This is now recognized as one of the wettest locations on earth.



Annual average precipitation map for New Zealand showing the general locations for Cropp at Waterfall and Milford Sound. NIWA map.



A close up of the Southland District’s annual precipitation. Note the pronounced rain shadow that the New Zealand Alps produce in this district: from over 6000 mm (240”) at Milford Sound to less than 700 mm (27”) in the area northwest of Gore, a distance of just about 150 kilometers (94 miles). Map from NIWA.

KUDOS: Thanks to Jeremy Budd and NIWA for the above information.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian


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Reader Comments

Stunning landscape, Christopher, apart from all those rains! I wasn't aware until now that New Zealand got fjords like Norway (but a bit more tropical). Thanks for drawing our attention to this amazing spot of the world.
The anomalously strong westerly flow also brought a very wet October to western Tasmania, but a very dry (and warm) one to the east coast of mainland Australia where the flow was offshore (http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/awap/rain/index.jsp?col our=colour&time=latest&step=0&map=decile&period=mo nth&area=nat). The record October, on both counts, was also 1988 in Australia.
Thank you for the interesting information. I'll be visiting Milford Sound in about ten days. I hope November is not another record months.
I wonder how big the New Zealand glaciers were during the ice age. Was there an ice cap on the South Island?

Truly amazing beauty. I've wanted to visit New Zealand but haven't made it yet--so many other places I've gone!
Brian - there is supposed to be a lot of information about New Zealand geology on my trip. I'll try to ask about NZ during the Ice Age and let you know if I learn anything. A good friend of mine is from Wellington; I keep threatening to pitch a tent on her property on the north island and take up residency.
Hello Weatherhistorian, I am Dave from San Jose, CA. USA. New Zealand is an interesting country, I have never been there. I do like the photos and info you have listed. It seems to me that most of the rainfall has been concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere. He in San Jose, CA it hasn't rained since April.
October 2013 :
1298,5 mm in Ivory Glacier Cws (1390 m)
1295,4 mm in Milford Sound (3 m)
1189,8 mm in Mt. Philistine Ews (1655 m)
1094,4 mm in Arthurs Pass Ews (738 m)

A little mistake: the greatest 24-hour total for Milford Sound is officially 537,5 mm on January 20-21, 1994 (and only 467,1 mm on April 16-17, 1939).
See also the inventory of the most intense short-term rainfalls in the world on the website Geoclimat.org.
Thanks for your informative blogging, Chris...though I have to tell you that your pic of Milford Sound is wrong way 'round!

Interesting that the wettest Octobers in the SW correspond to the warmest and driest Octobers in eastern Australia.
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