Map from Google - New_Caledonia
In New Caledonia, an archipelago located in the Pacific, south of the Equator, the climate is tropical
, influenced by the trade winds, with a hot and rainy season, a cool and drier season, and two intermediate periods.
- The hot season
, humid and rainy, runs from late December to late March. In this season the temperatures are high, around 30/32 °C (86/90 °F) during the day, but with peaks of 35 °C (95 °F). The humidity makes the heat muggy, and rains in the form of showers and thunderstorms are frequent. Rainfall is more abundant in the inland elevations and the north-eastern coast of the main island, where it exceeds 300 millimetres (12 inches) in the wettest month (March), while on the west coast it ranges from 200 mm (8 in) in the north, to 150 mm (6 in) in the south (see Nouméa). In addition, in this period the country can be hit by tropical cyclones (see below). However, even in this period, between heavy showers, the sun shines.
- A cool season
, sunny and with little rainfall, from June to August or September, during which average highs drop to around 23/24 °C (73/75 °F), and lows to 17/18 °C (63/64 °F), and sometimes even below, in fact sometimes there can be days with maximum temperatures around 20 °C (68 °F). Actually, even cold-air outbreaks are possibile, with night temperatures around 10 °C (50 °F) and even below, although in recent years they have become rare. Some showers can occur even in this period, most likely along the northern coast of the main island (see Poindimié), where the proximity of mountain slopes enhances the formation of thunderclouds.
- Two intermediate seasons
, April-May and October-November, in which the temperatures are acceptable, around 26/27 °C (79/81 °F) during the day, while rainfall is acceptable in the latter period, and a bit higher in the former one, especially in April and in the rainiest areas.
Here are the average temperatures of Nouméa
, the capital, situated on the southern coast of the main island (Grande Terre
Average temperatures - Nouméa
The sea temperature
is always warm enough for swimming, although it drops to 23 °C (73 °F) from July to October; in the northernmost islands (Belep Islands) it is just higher (about one degree Celsius).
Sea temperature - Nouméa
As mentioned, in the interior of the main island we find some mountain slopes, in fact it is crossed by a mountain range, whose highest peaks are Mont Panié, 1,629 metres (5,344 feet), and Mont Humboldt, 1,618 metres (5,308 feet).
amounts to around 1,500/1,800 mm (60/70 in) in the smaller islands, as you can be seen in the following table, concerning the rainfall in the island of Lifou.
Average precipitation - Lifou
In the main island, rainfall varies with slope exposure and proximity to the mountains: in general, the north-facing coast receives more rainfall than the one exposed to the south: precipitation amounts to 2,600 mm (102 in) per year in Poindimié, with a minimum of about 90 mm (3.5 in) in August and September, to 1,900 mm (75 in) per year in Pouébo, while on the southern coast it ranges from 800 to 1,200 mm (31 to 47 in), therefore some areas are almost dry. In Nouméa, in the south-west, 1,050 mm (41.5 in) of rain per year fall, with a maximum of 150 mm (6 in) in March, and a minimum of 40/60 mm (1.6/2.4 in) per month from September to November. However, from year to year in New Caledonia the rains are quite irregular, and therefore a bit unpredictable.
Here is the average precipitation in Nouméa.
Average precipitation - Nouméa
New Caledonia can be affected by tropical cyclones
from November to mid-May, although they are more likely from December to April. Some intense cyclones that hit New Caledonia were Coleen in February 1969, Anne in January 1988, Sose in April 2001, Beni in January 2003, Erica in March 2003, Jasmine in February 2012, Evan in December 2012.
In addition, New Caledonia is affected by the climate cycle called ENSO. During the years of El Niño
, in New Caledonia the weather tends to be drier than normal from December to February, and drier and cooler than normal from June to August. On the other hand, during the years of La Niña
, it becomes more rainy than usual from December to February, and warmer from June to August.
When to go
The best time to visit New Caledonia is the austral spring, ie October-November
: the temperature is pleasant, the sun shines, the rains are generally not excessive, especially in the southern side of the main island and in the smaller islands. In the southern side of the main island, the rains are acceptable even in April and May
, however, in April there's still some chance of cyclones or tropical storms, but this happens also in November (even though they are statistically rare). So, all in all the best month is probably October. From June to September, in the austral winter, the weather can be nice, but sometimes it can be a little cool for beach life, especially for those who are sensitive to cold: you can therefore opt for excursions.
What to pack
In winter (June to August): light clothes for the day, a scarf for the breeze, a sweatshirt for the evening, possibly a light jacket; light raincoat or umbrella. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes. For Mont Panié, hiking boots, sweatshirt, raincoat.
In summer (December to February): tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening, light raincoat or umbrella.