The first tropical cyclone of 2019-2020 season has formed just east of Vanuatu and will peak in strength over the next 24 hours before weakening.
For now Cyclone Rita isn’t forecast to be a major headache, likely drifting south for a day then curving westwards into Vanuatu – but by then it may have already lost its tropical cyclone title and be just a tropical rainmaker.
New Zealand is protected by the storm by a very powerful belt of high pressure between us and the tropics. This same high pressure belt will 1) Stop Rita from tracking towards NZ, 2) Stop Rita from strengthening too much, 3) Guide Rita in towards Vanuatu as a rainmaker. Beach conditions will also be dangerous for a time around eastern Vanuatu.
As high pressure continues to spread east from Australia and over the upper North Island and north of New Zealand it will do a good job at holding back tropical lows from reaching NZ.
Rita is one to closely monitor if you live in Vanuatu but the latest guidance shows it may only briefly reach Category 2 status out at sea before weakening as it moves towards land tomorrow and Wednesday.
ABOVE: JTWC (US GOVT) tracking map
BELOW: Vanuatu Meteorological Service tracking map