Friday, January 09, 2009


A couple days ago, I wrote about a questionable survey that supposedly found that Kiwis wanted their summer holidays moved to February because the weather is better. I said that while the survey itself was dubious, the news story was absurd.

However, there’s a basis in fact: The summer weather in New Zealand does get better as the season goes on. The early part of summer—December— can be cool and/or rainy (or not). January is usually very hot, but often with stormy periods. By February and March, the weather is usually pretty stable and a bit cooler (for my Northern Hemisphere friends, add six months to get the equivalent time of year up there).

Yesterday was a typical January day: Hot and sunny. In Canterbury, official temperatures hit 35.7 (or just over 96 US degrees Fahrenheit). But unofficially, the high was about 40 (104F). Here in Auckland, the official high was supposed to be about 26 (roughly 79F), but was measured hitting 28 (a bit over 82F), and probably higher in other places.

Why the discrepancy between official and actual high temperatures? Part of it has to do with natural variations in a region (micro-climates and all that). Part of it, though, is that often the official temperature is taken at a non-representative place. At one time—and still, for all I know—Auckland’s official temperature was measured at Albert Park—high on a hilltop in a shady, cool park. Go as little as a hundred metres away from the park and the temperature can be dramatically different. For Auckland, the official temperature is usually several degrees cooler than the temperature that typical Aucklanders are experiencing.

Which brings me back to the idea of moving summer holidays. There’s absolutely nothing that prevents workers from taking their holidays in February if they want to. However, school is in session at that time and there are important business deadlines (like year-end taxes) that have to be dealt with. “Moving the holidays” would mean changing all that, too.

The big churches liked the idea, saying it would make Christmas “sacred” again: Yeah, right, as if that’s all they’d need. For one thing, the public holidays around Christmastime would have to be trimmed back, kids would be in school, their parents at work. And February holidays would do nothing to remove the crass commercialism leading to Christmas.

The idea of moving the holidays is one of those things that comes up every year at this time when there’s very little real news—a mere meaningless distraction, in other words. Besides, it’s too hot to think about things like that right now.

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