Saturday, February 02, 2019

The heat’s been on

New Zealand’s heatwave is in the process of ending, though its reported demise has been somewhat exaggerated: It’s not gone quite yet. Nevertheless, the heatwave really is ending.

The picture with this post is a screengrab of the reading from our weather station at the highest temperature yesterday afternoon. 31.4 degrees is 88.52F, and it felt hotter still. At around the same point today, the temperature was 30.2 (86.36F). This isn’t “hot” by my Illinois-born standards: At least once every summer we’d have temperatures that would hit around 104 (40C), so to me that is hot. All that proves is that what anyone thinks is “hot” is relative.

Because it seldom gets as hot in New Zealand as it’s been recently, people aren’t used to it. They don’t have a frame of reference, and they often don’t have means of coping, like air conditioning, and there aren’t usually “cooling centres” for such people to use in the hottest part of the day, as there are in Chicago. So, people in New Zealand very often have no easy means of coping with high heat, and that’s especially true for poorer people and those who much work outside.

News reports were filled with stories about coping, like fruitpickers working mostly in the earlier morning, when it’s cooler, and stopping early in the afternoon. I also saw someone on TV explaining how to use net curtains (called “sheers” where I grew up) to allow daylight in, but keep some of the heat out. Instead, we closed our curtains on the side the sun was pouring in, something we don’t do on cooler days. The dark actually made it feel cooler.

It was too hot to do things outside, but it was also too hot to do anything downstairs, where there’s no air conditioning. I have to do a lot of work next week, so it’s a good thing the heatwave is ending, because all I have are a couple fans to cool me in my office.

The temperature sensor for the picture up top is located out of the sun, but on the side of the house that’d hottest in the afternoon, so it’s no surprise that it recorded high temperatures. But the reported temperatures in our area yesterday were always similar to what we were recording, at most only varying a degree or so. Today, however, there was a larger gap between what we measured and what the reported temperature was—maybe three or found degrees at one point. That’s not unusual, actually: Auckland seems to have a lot of microclimates all over the place. The other day, the reported temperature for Auckland was upper mid-20s (26 or 27), but 30 was reported in parts of Auckland. So, other areas experience what we do.

I mention all that because what’s reported and what we see are often different, and sometimes quite different, and people experience that same thing in other areas of the country, too. That just reinforces the fact that when trying we’re to find out about a place we’re unfamiliar with, it’s important to find out what people really experience, not just what’s reported in official or semi-official places.

Update – February 3, 2019: The high at our house today was 29.6 (85.28F), so the temperatures really are trending downward.

Update 2 – February 4, 2019: I spoke too soon. Today the high at our house today was 31.6 (88.88F), meaning that the high temperature today was the highest since we began monitoring it. Oh, well.

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