A Portrait of Wellington’s weather – By Ali Hale Tilley
There are three distinct weather patterns in Te Whanganui-a-Tara:
The rarest is a fragile high, so elevated and bright that the dark outline of the Tararuas and the bottleneck of Cook Strait become anchors for a gently inflating sky. On these breathless days blue prevails. Your eyes are invariably drawn to red hulled tankers and yellow gorse. Other senses are also heightened – aromatic seaweed permeates the ozone; hushing waves pull back through polished shingle. This hypnotic ferment amplifies sounds within the Harbour’s throat. Gulls screech on unseen shores. Ferries mow up and down shipping lanes. Yet, the euphoria is short-lived. As if blown from the belly of a mythical bird, cirrus clouds soon signal change on its way.
When the prevailing Northerly returns it rips the lid off the sky. The wind’s strength is relentless. It storms around corners and sets up air blockades. People struggle with car doors. Washing tangles around lines. Long hair blinds fashionistas, and skirts billow along Lampton Quay. Giant gusts scrape water off the harbour, dowsing unsuspecting cyclists with brine. Cumulus clouds race overhead. Mottled shadows sweep along pavements, up over ships from Panama, racing out through the Harbour gate, careering birds off course. Recycling bins roll around, keeping people up at night. Everywhere is turbulence. Then, a momentary calm lulls you, before you’re blown away again by the roaring Boreas.
The warmer flow from the North eventually surrenders to cold fronts from the South. Southerlies either creep in low and quiet overnight, or swing in suddenly with cold exact fury, driving waves and sand into the streets of Lyall and Island Bay. Sometimes jagged swells heave trees, kelp, and sea lion stench from Red Rocks to Barrett’s Reef. Other times, the South Pole’s vastness resonates with deep tectonic shifts. Even so, southerlies are always variable. They can either dampen moods with bleakness, hampering laundry and outdoor play. Or, they can invigorate the resolute, bringing temporary respite to our Capital’s liveliness.
For weather aficionados like myself, Wellington’s three main weather expressions are of equal fascination all year round. It is the change that I embrace.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor E. Frankl