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First day of spring to kick off with snow

UPDATED 8:38am — Thursday is the first official day of Spring in New Zealand but Winter is going to remind us it’s not quite finished with us yet. is again predicting snow to low levels – but unlike previous snow storms over the past several weeks this one is going to be short and sharp and snow is less likely to settle in our main centres.

Sleet is predicted in from Invercargill to Dunedin, then up to Christchurch and into Wellington, but snow is now not looking so likely, with temperatures probably too high for snow.

“I think we’ll see more of a rain and snow mix for Christchurch on Thursday evening, it’s possible snow flakes may fall again overnight in the city but it’s looking less likely”.

Mr Green says snow will be more likely above a couple of hundred metres which will affect inland parts of Canterbury towards the hills.

Around Dunedin and Invercargill precipitation levels aren’t likely to be as high, which again reduces the risk of snow. believes most main centres won’t see any snow, but says residents still need to keep up with the latest forecasts as snow systems have a habit of being tricky to forecast.

The North Island will feel the cold too, with the southerly change hitting the capital late on Thursday. 

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says it will be cold in the wind for Wellington on Thursday night and Friday – but that snow wasn’t expected in the city.  “For snow lovers you’ll have to head for the hills to find any white stuff” he said.  “We are predicting sleet possibly for a time in Wellington and perhaps a few snow flakes above 200 metres, but it’s not likely to settle and will most likely fall in the very early hours of Friday when people are sleeping”.

He says State Highway 2 over the Rimutaka Ranges may be affected by snow at the summit overnight Thursday and the Desert Road was facing a similar forecast on Friday morning.

“While it will be cold for many places on Friday it won’t be as bad as the snow storm earlier this month.  The air from this blast is coming from midway over the Southern Ocean and not off the South Pole” says Mr Duncan. 

For skiers the news is great – with more snow for most ski fields on Thursday and Friday and then sunny weather moving in for the weekend.

However Farmers are being told be prepared for the cold change – which thankfully will die out by Saturday.

Frosty conditions are then predicted and vine growers are also being advised to prepare for potential frosts.


NEXT SNOW UPDATE:  4pm WEDS on our homepage


sw on 30/08/2011 5:28am

Unsure why we base seasons on the 1st of a month.Sept 1st is about equivalent to April 12th solar intensity…Well into Autumn levels,its like March 1st is definitely summer,not autumn,1 sept still late winter.

WW Forecast Team on 30/08/2011 6:32am

Hi SW – this debate comes up every time we mention the start of a new season.

I agree with you re: Summer…March is definitely very summer like, especially in the north and east. But our winters are so short… feels weird to be in winter in August when lambs have been around for over a month and daffodils have been out for 2 months!  

Someone once said to me (A Canadian) that we shouldn’t even have a winter because it’s so warm here – instead make Summer, Autumn and Spring 4 months each.  🙂



Guest on 30/08/2011 7:04am

You think our winters are short? i have to have a fire on at night from may to the end of sept here in the south so just remember the MAINLAND has weather nothing like you in auckland.

WW Forecast Team on 30/08/2011 9:24am

Well short compared to winter in places like the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Russia, Chile etc.  Even in the South Island it’s quite rare for main centres to be below +5 degrees as the daily high in winter, apart from Alexandra etc which sometimes fails to climb over 0.  NZ’s overnight lows don’t frequently drop below -5 and most of our main centres don’t get a lot of snow.  In many other nations that would be considered early spring or mid Autumn weather!



Guest Ian Cooper on 30/08/2011 11:29pm

All of the comments above show why the real season starts are not based on such vagaries as the berth of certain domesticated animals (man has far too great an influence on that to be called a natural event), the blooming of certain flowers or trees which can vary drastically in the same local area, let alone across the country, or even the weather itself.

The problem lies in the fact that the seasons are not a meteorological event. We only have seasons due to an astronomical event, i.e. the tilt of the earth’s axis to approx. 23.3 degrees in relation to its orbit around the sun. Without that tilt the slightly elliptical nature of our orbit would be insufficient to create the variation we currently see in our weather & climate.

Our planet would become a smaller, solid version of Jupiter which has an axial tilt of only 3 degrees. Jupiter is divided up into strong belt zones that see very little interaction between them. Without the axial tilt we now enjoy, life on earth would not be what it is today. The polar and tropical regions would be almost uninhabitable. The diversity of life and developement would have been stunted without the mixing brought about by the axial tilt.

On that basis the cardinal dates in relation to the axial tilt and our orbit are the equinoxes and the solstices. These dates are fairly constant. There is a slight variation over the years due to irregularities in our orbit, but these are minimal compared to large variations seen in other ‘seasonal indicators’ above.

This brings us back to why we now have a contradictory set of dates for the start of the seasons. In simple terms the calendar is out of line with the seasons. The blame for this can be placed fairly & squarely on the political and religious leaders of the western world at the time christ was born, i.e. the Roman hierarchy who missed the best chance to correct this. It is obviously inconvenient to have a season starting three weeks into a month as is the case now.

The only problem that I have with shifting the start date back to three weeks before the cardinal dates is that we have to me the crazy situation with March being described as an autumn month, while December is touted as a summer month. Some people will jump up and down and say, “But December is one of the hottest months here!” It depends upon where you live. For many people the majority of March is more summer like in weather outlook than the ave December, even if the figures don’t stack up.

The ‘Official New Zealand Seasons,’ are the result of our current politicians looking for an expedient answer to the age old question of, “When do the seasons start?” In the past this question was asked of astronomers whose job it should be to answer an astronomical question relating to time. In stead people mistakenly believing the seasons to be a weather based phenomenon asked meteorologist to determine the start of the seasons. Sorry, not the meterologist’s job. Meteorologists are tasked to report on how the seasons went, and how they might go, but not when they start!

If you want to see how our counterparts in the ‘old countries’ do it just watch CNN, BBC news etc over the next few days. You won’t see any mention of a change of seasons from them, but you will from Sept 24th N.Z. time when the northern autumnal equinox occurs.



WW Forecast Team on 31/08/2011 2:26am

Very well said Ian, thanks for contributing.  And I agree with you re December and March. 

Could be a hard one to change though – even if organisations like WW backed a shift to the astronomical dates, I wonder if that would have any impacts on Govt.  Could be something worth discussing at least?


Philip Duncan

Nancy on 31/08/2011 4:09am

I’m definitely in the camp that the seasons should run concurrent with astronomical dates (solstices and equinoxes).   I have noticed that here in NZ the system as it is is quite skewed in terms of temperature and daylight hours.   Which is also why the whole different daylight savings change that was done a couple of years back was confusing as well.

That being said, I do not understand why it should be such a big deal to change the official season start/finish to the astronomical system.  Which begs the questionn – why are the dates different in  NZ in the first place?  Whose brilliant (not) idea was that?


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