Where should you go to catch plenty of New Zealand sunshine and how wise is it soaking up those golden rays in the Southern Hemisphere?
New Zealand is sunnier than North-Western Europe but is less sunny than the Mediterranean and much of the U.S.A.
New Zealand’s sunshine is fairly well spread throughout the year so winters tend to be brighter than you might expect.
Sunshine Comes With Shelter
• The sunniest places lie in sheltered spots at the northern tips of both islands – Blenheim and Nelson in the South Island and Tauranga and other coastal locations in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty.
• The least sunny places lie in the far south and on the west coast.
• New Zealand’s three major cities – Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington all receive over two thousand hours of bright sunshine each year.
Annual Sunshine Hours Compared
|NZ Location||Annual Sunshine Hours|
|Overseas Location||Annual Sunshine Hours|
|San Diego (California)||3,000|
But How Pleasant Is The Sunshine?
• In high summer, the sunshine in New Zealand is really strong. You’ll burn more easily here in New Zealand than anywhere in the Mediterranean.
• For our scientifically minded readers, there are three reasons why the sun in the Southern Hemisphere is so strong.
• There is less ozone here to block the UV rays that cause sunburn.
• Earth’s orbit takes it closer to the sun during the southern summer than during the northern summer.
• There is less pollution in the southern-hemisphere to block the UV rays.
• The sun’s burning strength is measured by the UV index. The highest possible UV index at sea-level is about 20. This can occur at midday in equatorial regions. Any reading higher than 10 is extreme in terms of skin-damage.
• The UV Index in the Mediterranean in high-summer reaches 9 or 10.
• The people in Florida are fried on a just a few days each summer when the index reaches 12.
• In New Zealand the summer index often exceeds 12. In the far North, 14 is reached – risky even for people with naturally brown skin.
Daily predictions of New Zealand’s UV levels are available from NIWA. NIWA’s site is particularly useful because you can also find out what the sun’s strength will be at different times of the day.
Unless you’re keen to look like toasted lobster, you need to take precautions with New Zealand’s climate. If you arrive in summer, you’ll notice that a surprising number of New Zealanders look like they’re taking none – most people don’t wear hats. Many New Zealanders are very slack about sun precautions, so it’s not surprising that there are high skin cancer rates here.
In fact New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancers in the world, with almost 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year!! Thankfully most of these cases are not serious, but the reality is that about 200 New Zealanders die each year of skin cancer.
If you’re worried about skin-cancer you can have your skin checked by skin-scans or mole-maps; there are newspaper-ads in New Zealand for this type of check-up.
The common message is slip, slop, slap and wrap:
• Slip on a shirt.
• Slop on the sun cream.
• Slap on a hat.
• Wrap around sunglasses.
And there’s a lot of sense in that.
Return to the New Zealand Climate Guide.