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Thunderstorms on the way for all of New Zealand

New Zealand is in the line for thunderstorms this afternoon, evening and again tomorrow as the first Tasman Sea low of the year brings hot, humid and unstable weather conditions to the country.

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says afternoon heating will produce thunderstorms later today across inland parts of New Zealand while a cold front coming in from the Tasman Sea has the potential to bring damaging thunderstorms to some western and northern regions today and tomorrow.

Story continues below, also MetService maps of thunderstorm risks for today and tomorrow…

See the live and free Lightning Tracker here

“A hot northerly flow over the country today, combined with afternoon cloud build ups, is likely to produce heavy showers about inland parts of the lower North Island however an approaching front tonight may see more violent weather affecting more populated centres such as Auckland, New Plymouth, Kaitaia and Whangarei”.

Mr Duncan says the front is already producing a huge amount of lightning offshore.  “The northern Tasman Sea is alight with lightning at the moment as this front moves closer.  While I expect some of those storms to ease when they make landfall overnight tonight it will mean an increased risk of thunder, hail and possibly even isolated small tornadoes in western coastal areas of Taranaki and Northland”.

MetService is also expecting similar weather with their thunderstorm outlook showing a number of places in the firing line.  MetService says all of Northland and Auckland, along with Great Barrier Island, the northern tip of Coromandel Peninsula and about New Plymouth have a “moderate risk” of thunderstorms tonight and the chance of “weak tornadoes”.

MetService has also issued rain warnings for Bay of Plenty and Rotorua.  “In the 12 hours from 3am Thursday expect 60 to 90mm of rain, especially in the ranges. Heaviest intensities of 15 to 20mm per hour in thunderstorms”.

This afternoon the MetService also says there’s a moderate to high risk of thunderstorms across the bottom half of the North Island.  “An increasing northerly flow is expected to lead to high temperatures this afternoon over the southern half of the North Island, and a consequent destabilisation of the atmosphere. There is a high risk of thunderstorms south of about Dannevirke, mainly about the Tararuas and southern Ruahines,accompanied by localised heavy rain with intensities 15 to 25mm per hour.” says MetService.

“A moderate risk of thunderstorms extends to cover most of the rest of Wairarapa,also north to the central plateau, then westwards across to Wanganui and south Taranaki. Localised heavy rain with intensities 10 to 20mm per hour is likely in this area”.

“A low risk area surrounds this and extends across to northern Hawkes Bay”.

MetService says there is also a low risk area about north Canterbury and southern Marlborough. 

Tomorrow afternoon will see a “high risk” for thunderstorms across northern parts of the North Island with moderate risks for much of the North and South Island.

Maps / MetService

See the Live and Free Lightning Tracker here


Rachel jennings on 20/01/2010 7:11am

Good Evening

Just wondering what is the chance of thunderstorms for Canterbury tomorrow? Just curious.

Guest on 20/01/2010 6:41am


We are off to a weeding on Great Barrier this weekend.

Any thoughts for Fri Sat Sun? Or is it just whatever Auckland is?



WW Forecast Team on 21/01/2010 8:14am

Hi Steve,

Apologies for the delay.  Friday is looking fairly windy – in fact strong sou’westers.  Sat and Sun look like conditions will improve wind wise, but still the risk of a shower…hopefully nothing too serious though.



Guest on 20/01/2010 4:07am

Hi there,
Could you please explain why it is so rare for there to be a thunderstorm in Auckland? I think we have had at least 4 separate thunderstorms in 2009, but only 1 or2 in 2008, and seemed to only get 1 or 3 on average each year in Auckland (i remember them usually occurring in June/July, middle of winter type thing)..
I am a kiwi & used to live in Sydney for 5 years, where we would get a decent amount of thunderstorms each year –
is it because Auckland is too Humid? or just not the right ingredients for thunderstorms to develop?


WW Forecast Team on 21/01/2010 8:20am

Hi – that’s a very good (and timely) quuestion.

Auckland is in a funny location for thunderstorms really.  We don’t have a lot of land around us, so we tend to miss out on a lot of those afternoon heat showers that so many other regions get.  We’re also not quite far enough north to get the big thunderstorms that the sub-tropics develop.

Sydney has a very different set up to Auckland – a bit more like Canterbury.  Hot dry air from the desert can mix with more humid air or cooler air creating some big thunderstorms… but in Auckland we don’t have a hot dry wind too often to help spark things up.  Also the shape of the land here doesn’t work in our favour… I remember talking to a contact at MetService who said that the shape of Northland coming in to Auckland could also help break clouds apart – we saw that last nighit and many other times thunderstorms and big rain bands have broken apart just before reaching Auckland – possibly due to the air ahead of the bands pushing back on the clouds.

A little complicated and frustrating for not only forecasters but also for those who love a good rumble!

Hope that helps

Philip Duncan

TheresaC on 20/01/2010 2:04am

Does is still look like there is a chance of a thunderstorm tonight in Auckland? It’s been a while since we had a decent one.

WW Forecast Team on 20/01/2010 2:27am

We believe West Auckland (especially near the coast) has the best chance of a rumble of thunder across the Akld region…however we rate the chances for Auckland tonight as "Low", then "moderate" between midnight and dawn tomorrow.   We have a "high" confidence of thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon though.  However they may be quite small/isolated. 

We’ll be updating throughout this evening and early tomorrow to ensure we’re on top of the best coverage.


Robt on 19/01/2010 10:50pm

Feilding 11.45 temp is now at 26.5

Air temp at rear of building could not in direct sun.

Expect temp to rise more.

Guest on 19/01/2010 10:04pm

will masterton be in for any? we currently sitting on 27! at 11am

WW Forecast Team on 19/01/2010 10:05pm

MetService seem to think so – quite possibly further towards the ranges though.

Wow 27 already?  Lucky you!

Philip Duncan

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