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TODAY IS THE WINTER SOLSTICE – THE SHORTEST DAY OF THE YEAR

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Today is the shortest day of the year for the southern hemisphere.  “Around 6:30pm tonight the sun is the furthest away from New Zealand” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan.  “That means today is our shortest day and tonight is our longest night”.  That is why the winter solstice is June 21 and 22.
“Although this is the official start to winter and the coldest weather will now start, take comfort in the fact that as of tomorrow each day will start to get a little bit longer!”

 


GET READY: BACK END OF MINI CYCLONE ABOUT TO SLAM NZ

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- POLICE WARN SNOW IS “IMPOSSIBLE TO TRAVEL ON”
- COLD AIR STRAIGHT FROM ANTARCTICA
- AIR PRESSURE PLUMMETS
 
The deep low that brought heavy rain to some parts of New Zealand yesterday is about to intensify and bring severe gales and heavy snow from now until at least Sunday.  TRN’s Head weather Analyst Philip Duncan says it’s going to affect quite a lot of people. “The police have confirmed heavy snow has fallen in Alexandra, Queenstown and right up to Lindis Pass”.  Police describe the snow in the towns as impossible for cars to drive on and even four by four vehicles with chains are having trouble moving.
In Invercargill it’s the calm before the storm.  Very little wind and cold grey skies will give way to sleet and even snow showers tonight or tomorrow as winds up to gale force develop.  “The air pressure has plummeted this afternoon and for those who understand air pressure, 978mb is very low” says Duncan.  The low air pressure means winds will be very strong and the air unstable, leading to heavy showers laced with hail and thunder.
A number of snow warnings have been issued by MetService for the South.  Mr Duncan says snow will likely also affect Dunedin and the motorway could receive decent snow falls.
Further north and gale force westerlies are expected to pound southern Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa tonight and in to tomorrow.  “The isobars are packed very closely.  Winds may reach 130km/h in exposed areas according to MetService” says Duncan.
And in northern regions bands of heavy showers are likely through Friday and Saturday with isolated thunderstorms and even hail possible.  “Aucklanders will certainly feel a nip in the air as the ‘feels like’ temperature on Saturday may be mostly around 7 or 8 degrees”.
 
CLARIFICATIONIn an earlier story we said today was the shortest day.  Tomorrow is in fact the shortest day this year.  Andrew Buckingham from Auckland’s Stardome Observatory says “The time does vary slightly each year. Solstice can range anywhere between the 20th & 23rd of the month but normally on the 21st or 22nd.  This year the Winter Solstice is at 6:08am on 22nd June NZ time”.

 


“MINI-CYCLONE” ENGULFS ENTIRE TASMAN SEA… HEADING OUR WAY

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It’s Sydney’s turn this morning….then it moves our way tonight.  Another massive storm off the New South Wales coast is rapidly deepening today and is likely to deepen further before it reaches New Zealand.  The storm is feared to bring flash floods and down trees in Australia this morning before heading out to sea towards New Zealand.  Australian forecasters are saying this storm is very similar in size to the one that wiped out the Sydney to Hobart yacht race in 1998. 
 
 
 
TRN’s Head Weather Analyst says the storm is massive.  “This is a mini-cyclone with winds over 120km/h battering the Australian coastline and those gales are also expected later in the week for some parts of New Zealand”.  Mr Duncan says the storm is currently covering the entire Tasman Sea.  “It is still deepening and the centre is widening.  Basically the wide the ‘eye’ gets the lesser the winds will be, as the energy is spread over a much bigger area, but we’re still expecting some pretty hefty gusts”. 
 
Rain is expected to start falling today over much of New Zealand, spreading everywhere by tonight.  Mr Duncan says thunderstorms are also expected in northern regions this evening, some may bring some very heavy localised rainfalls. 
MetService is also keeping an eye on the storm, issuing a storm watch for several parts of New Zealand ranging from heavy rain in the north, to gales about Hawkes Bay, and possibly snow for Southern areas.
 
“The storm will arrive in two parts” says Mr Duncan. “Firstly rain and strong north easterlies today…then a bit of a breather on Thursday as the large centre of the storm moves over the country, which may trigger further thunderstorms.  Then the second part will hit on Friday.  As with any major storm once the ‘eye’ or centre passes over winds turn 180 degrees.  We’re expected severe south westerly winds to bring snow to the far South and gales to parts in the east starting Friday and easing Sunday”.
 
TRN’s Weather Watch Centre will closely monitor this storm over the next 5 days. 
 
GENERAL TIMELINE:
Wednesday – Low deepens in the Tasman Sea. Rain spreads from the north down the entire country as the first fronts arrive.  Thunderstorms develop in the far north tonight, some may be severe.
Thursday – Thundery rain eases for many, but unstable air means heavy thundery showers are possible in northern regions. Low moves across New Zealand and winds generally ease.
Friday – the low moves out into the Pacific and behind it, a strong bitterly cold south westerly blast.  Snow may fall in Southland and Otago. Westerly gales may blast Hawkes Bay.
Weekend – Snow, sleet, hail and even gales possible over southern areas south of Dunedin.  Strong cold south westerlies for everyone else, with showers.

 


STORM COULD BE A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

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LA NINA COULD BE FORMING
 
The two major storms that have formed in the Tasman Sea in the past week could be the strongest sign yet that a drought breaking “la Nina” is on the way according to the Radio Network’s head weather analyst.
“When La Nina forms we tend to get more depressions forming in the northern Tasman or Coral Seas bringing heavy rain to drought affected areas in both Australia and New Zealand” says Philip Duncan.
La Nina is the opposite of El Nino.  During El Nino warmer waters lie well east of New Zealand meaning rain bearing lows form east of New Zealand and once formed move even further away from us.  With La Nina the warmer waters lie west of New Zealand, therefore lows naturally travel south east towards us.  Mr Duncan says this has certainly been happening in the past week.
La Nina also brings warmer weather to New Zealand, and NIWA are predicting a 50% chance of La Nina forming.
Dry weather in both New Zealand and Australia has been caused by two El Nino’s in 2002 and then again for our past Spring and Summer.
“Just as droughts are common with El Nino, floods are common with La Nina.  Currently we are in a neutral phase, which means conditions are pretty average and we have neither la nina or el nino weather patterns” says Duncan.
  

 


SNOW & MORE RAIN FOR HAWKES BAY – JUST PLAIN COLD FOR EVERYONE ELSE!

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A deepening low off Eastland is set to bring cold weather to much of the North Island this weekend, while the South Island freezes under a large high pressure system.  “Quite strong, cold, south easterly winds are going to drive temperatures down over most of the North Island.  Heavy snow is expected on the Hawke’s Bay ranges…that will cool the winds further before they reach places like Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland” says Head Weather Analyst Philip Duncan.  “More rain is also on the way for drought affected farmers, although bitterly cold wind chills will certainly halt any grass growth for the next few days”
 
The weather is so cold MetService has been prompted to issue a heavy snow fall warning for the Hawke’s Bay Ranges tonight which may affect State Highway 5, the Napier Taupo road.
 
“Highs for many northern centres on Saturday will probably only make it to 11 or 12.  Even colder in Central Plateau” says Duncan.
 
The South Island’s big freeze will also continue with further bitterly cold overnight lows.  Many places about Central Otago have struggled to reach above 5 or 6 degrees this week with lows dropping as much as minus eight.   “Overnight cloud acts as a wool blanket trapping the days warmth in…when there’s no cloud the warmth escapes and the temperature just plummets”.  Lows are expected to drop to minus 5 across the region next week.
 
Mr Duncan says milder weather will return for the North Island next week, as a low in the Tasman moves in, bringing warmer winds by the middle or end of next week.

 


BITTERLY COLD IN THE SOUTH

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MINUS 8 IN QUEENSTOWN THIS MORNING…
 
It’s been bitterly cold in the South Island this morning with temperatures plunging below zero.  At 9am it felt like minus 8 in Queenstown, while shortly before noon it was still below zero in Dunedin with minus 1.  Head Weather Analyst Philip Duncan says it’s thanks to cold air and clear nights.  “After last weeks snow storm there’s a lot of cold air over the South.  With clear nights and no wind the cold air just falls to the ground”.
 
And fears by other forecasting agencies of another snow storm this week appear to be unfounded.  “A relatively weak cold front will bring colder conditions to the entire country over the next few days.  There are some snow flurries expected around Queenstown tonight and tomorrow morning but other than that it’s not looking too bad”.

 


Augie Auer dies

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Atmospheric scientist and meteorologist Augie Auer has died after suffering a heart attack while in Melbourne over the weekend.
Augie was most well known in New Zealand for his role as Chief Meteorologist for MetService in 1990.   He came to New Zealand after over 20 years as a professor at the University of Wyoming in America.
In 1998 his fame through the media lead him to become weather presenter for TV3 and he coined such phrases as “Ditto day” and “another blue dome day”.
In 2002 he left our screens and in 2006 Augie helped found the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition – in which Augie passionately argued against the man made influence on global warming. He was well known for saying that it was time to ‘attack the myth’ of global warming.   “It was fascinating to listen to Augie debate this controversial subject.  He certainly made me challenge my own beliefs” says the Radio Network’s weatherman Philip Duncan.  “Whether you believe in global warming or not, Augie was so interesting to listen to and he poked holes in a lot of global warming theories.  Without Augie’s voice now, I fear the debate will become very one sided as he had a charming way of making people listen”.
“Augie always spoke with fire in his belly and had a simplistic, humorous approach to explaining the weather.  He could hold your attention for a long period of time...he was just that kind of guy.  He will be very sorely missed".  
 

 


IS IT A DROUGHT BREAKER? Heavy rain falls across Hawke’s Bay

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East Coast farmers are today celebrating after substantial rain finally falls after months of dry weather.  The system that brought flooding rains to Australia’s east coast is this afternoon bringing heavy rain to our east coast.  “From Gisborne to Wairarapa the rain has been falling and the best news is there is more to come” says Head Weather Analyst Philip Duncan.  “Right through this week we’re expecting showery conditions – not as much as today but still enough to keep the ground damp”.
Mr Duncan says mild temperatures will also promote some grass growth but southerlies arriving by Friday will bring colder conditions.  “For the next 10 days it looks like the region will break from the dry blustery westerly direction, with more easterlies and southerlies”.  He says if this pattern stays in place then the drought issues should start to ease, but he warns farmers shouldn’t count their chickens just yet, as weather patterns at this time of year can be very changeable.
Reports from Napier are that the rain has been persistent all day.   Some good news in what has been a sad day on the weather front.

 


SNOW BLANKETS THE SOUTH

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- "Conditions diabolical" - snow arrives for 5pm traffic in Invercargill last night.
- Heavy snow in Porters and Arthurs pass
- Could it snow in Christchurch today? 
Our first winter storm of the year is this morning continuing to dump snow over the South Island.   In news just to hand from our South Island Weather Analyst, Richard Green, heavy snow is falling in Porters and Arthurs pass.  It's also currently falling in Sheffield, Springfield and Darfield.
 
And in a surprise to forecasters, light rain has started to fall in Christchurch - that combined with an air temperature of just 4 degrees means sleet or light snow may fall in the garden city.  Mr Green says the temperature is falling and he is closely monitoring the situation.
 
Further South and a surprise heavy snow fall just in time for evening commuters in Invercargill made driving conditions "diabolical" according to our local news reporter Malcolm Gayfor.  He says they also had thunder and lightening.
 
But while South Islanders appear to be getting slightly worse weather than was forecast, North Islanders appear to be missing the real cold stuff.   "Most towns this morning are in the lower teens, with strong winds just about everywhere" says Head Weather Analyst Philip Duncan.   "Wellington should see a colder southerly kicking in early this evening, arriving in Auckland overnight".  Mr Duncan says for the North Island, conditions should improve quite quickly on Saturday.
 
He says on Sunday a depression moving in from the sub-tropics will see temperatures lift as an easterly air flow kicks on and warmer heavy rain moves in.  It's unsure at this stage if this low will bring rain to Eastland and Hawkes Bay next week.
 

 


WESTERLIES BRING A SMIDGE OF WARMTH BACK TO NZ

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- North Island escapes worst of weather
- Still bitterly cold in the south.
- Potential low may bring rain to drought region
 
It’s still bitterly cold across much of the South Island but it appears the North Island has escaped the worst of the polar blast.  “While winds have been clocked around 80km/h over much of the North Island today they low that’s brought the bad weather has slipped further into the Southern Ocean” says Head Weather Analyst Philip Duncan.  “The winds have moved more westerly right over the country, bringing a smidge of warmth back in to many”.
 
A very weak cold front is going to move over Auckland tonight while a stronger cold front will bring much colder weather into Wellington.  By noon tomorrow yet another cold front will move on the South Island, disintegrating as it moves north.  “There may be a few brief showers in southern Hawkes Bay, although nothing significant”.
 
The weekend looks like it’s going to be very cold and shower in the South Island and southern part of the North Island, with conditions improving for the rest of the North Island. 
 
Warmer conditions will return by late Sunday or Monday for many, as a sub tropical low moves down over the far north.  Weather.Com is predicting a 60% chance of rain in Hawkes Bay.  MetService is also saying there is a very small risk that another low may develop off the coast of Wairarapa creating significant rain for the region.   All eyes will be monitoring that potential system very closely.