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Significant NZ snow storm looking likely forecasters have increasing confidence of an incoming significant snow storm, especially for central parts of New Zealand as an extensive polar blast lines up for Sunday through to Wednesday across the country.

The weather news authority expects widespread travel problems and snow again falling in places that don’t normally see it.

“Our data has lined up for the first time all week and we’re now ready to predict snow to sea level from Otago to Hawkes Bay” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan. 

Mr Duncan says data this morning, from the same source that accurately and exclusively predicted snow in several main centres last month, is this time calling for snow to very low levels around Wellington and across Hutt Valley and the chance of snow in Napier, Hastings, Masterton, Dannevirke, Palmerston North, Hawera, Stratford and potentially Wanganui.  Snow is unlikely to settle for long to sea level, or near sea level, in the North Island however. 

“Canterbury to Marlborough will have blizzard potential. It’s likely this snow event will have much higher totals than the July snow storm”. believes this snow storm is only side-swiping the country with coastal areas more exposed in the South Island than inland areas.  Heavy snow could fall as far inland as the main divide though.

Yesterday was holding off on making a solid prediction until more of the models we rely on came into line.  The conflicts were enough to make delay a storm forecast for the first time, but maintains the extra time has helped ensure a more accurate prediction.

As predicted yesterday we feel the bulk of the snow storm will stil be offshore between Canterbury and the lower North Island.  It’s possible some of the heaviest snow falls will be in parts of the North Island when cold air meets higher precipitation levels. Canterbury is also expected to be significantly affected.

Snow could cause travel issues for motorists right down to sea level from Southland to Otago, Canterbury to Marlborough, Wellington to Wairarapa and Hawkes Bay to Central Plateau. Snow may even be an issue on highways as far north as the Gisborne region.  Snow on the North Island ranges is predicted to be especially heavy with data used by predicted snow showers for the Desert Road from Sunday night all the way through until Wednesday.

“This snow storm is really the perfect storm” says Philip Duncan.  “We have a high stretching over 6000kms from the tropics to Antarctica expected to form in the Tasman Sea, meanwhile a low in the central Tasman Sea will move east into the Pacific Ocean over the weekend, combining with a Southern Ocean low.  All three systems will work together to provide an impressive southerly blast rarely seen here”.

Farmers have been advised to urgently move livestock with predicting the heaviest snow in southern and eastern regions of both islands, from Southland to East Cape.  Severe southerly gales will add to the misery with wind chills well below minus zero predicted.  Farmers are right in the middle of lambing season.

Snow is again expected on the Coromandel Peninsula and Kaimai Ranges.  Moisture levels aren’t very high for the Auckland region but current models show conditions being cold enough for snow on the hills around Auckland, but has only a 30% confidence of rain on Monday night/Tuesday morning (when it’s most likely).


In the South Island all Alpine passes are likely to be affected then all roads across coastal Otago, Canterbury and eastern coastal Marlborough.   In the North Island the Rimutaka Ranges are expected to have snow heavy enough to close State Highway 2 from Sunday night onwards while further north the Desert Road is expected to receive snow heavy enough to close the highway from late Sunday with the potential for heavy snow right up until Wednesday morning.  Snow will also affect State Highway 5, Napier to Taupo, and potentially State Highway 2 Whakatane to Gisborne.

Snow is expected at Queenstown Airport but data still shows that Central Otago and much of Southland will be on the far edge of the snowy blast.  Dunedin and Christchurch airports may be affected (Christchurch at a higher risk) by snow heavy enough to close runways, while severe gales could cause delays and cancellations for small prop aircraft along the eastern South Island and lower North Island – especially Wellington and Chrisrtchurch airports.

A very large southerly swell is expected in Cook Strait from Monday to Wednesday.  Ferry crossings may be delayed or even cancelled.

Extra updates. will have extensive coverage of the incoming snow storm with extra updates over the next few days. 

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Gus on 14/08/2011 2:48am

G’day. Would you expect Dunedin or Christchurch to get the greater snow accumulation over the next couple of days?  Thanks very much.  Great service – appreciate your work!

Linda Rees on 13/08/2011 5:30am

Is timaru likely to get snow this time & if so how much? cheers, think you guys do a great job 🙂

WW Forecast Team on 13/08/2011 6:10am

Hi Linda – thanks for the support!  Details on Timaru, and other centres, is here

– WW

Guest on 13/08/2011 5:18am

Hi, what sort of wind speeds should we be expecting in central hawkes bay?
Great website!

WW Forecast Team on 13/08/2011 6:11am

Strong to gale force by Monday, building over Sunday.

– WW

Guest on 12/08/2011 9:33am

Hi,only just found you and think you may be more accurate than metservice so how will this compare to the last snow?

Matt on 12/08/2011 7:13am

hello am just wondering if the snow will be the same thickness as Julys snowstorm for christchurch? worse or less snow?
thank you!! yous rock!!!

WW Forecast Team on 12/08/2011 7:17am

Hi Matt – thanks for the support.  We think it will be as heavy, if not heavier and certainly more widespread across Canterbury this time.

– WW

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