Monday, May 20, 2013

Sunshine Good Rain Bad

People who present on the weather programmes on TV have a curious bias towards sunshine, and a tendency to denigrate rain.  Yet earlier in the year we were supposedly in drought mode in New Zealand, not just in the 'Far North' (as the weather people call it) but right throughout the country.  The Far North certainly was in a state of drought, though not of Biblical proportions, which is what you'd have thought was the case from TV.

Drought is a result of too much sunshine and too little rain, yet night after night we hear on the weather section of the news that tomorrow will be sunny for these areas or those, but unfortunately there will be rain in this or that place.  Unfortunately?  We need rain.  The earth needs rain.  We need rain to grow plants, to water animals, to keep our reservoirs full.  Perpetual sunshine doesn't do this - ask any African who's lived through several years of drought. 

The irony is, perhaps, that the TV channels that pronounce on the unfortunateness of rain are the ones that are based in Auckland...a city that gets more rain than many of its southern counterparts.  NIWA tells us that the mean rainfall for Auckland over a 19-year period was 1240 mm. The equivalent for Christchurch was only just over half, at 648, and for Dunedin, supposedly in the 'Deep South', the mean rainfall was 812, around three-quarters of Auckland's precipitation.  Dunedin, when it gets rain, lets it drizzle on for a few days, spreading it around in a nice even fashion.  Auckland buckets it all down in a heap and drowns everything. Yet the number of wet days Dunedin got (still using the mean figures) was 124; the number Auckland got was 137.  Christchurch got only 85!  That's not to say that the South Island is altogether sparse in its rainfall: Milford Sound takes the prize by having 6749 mm and Westport 2274.

Whatever the stats, it's still worth rethinking how the weather section is presented: a constant insistence on Sunshine Good Rain Bad eventually makes viewers think this really is the case.  It would be good to see a bit more honesty on the weather program.  But I'm not holding my breath.
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