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More Snow On The Way For New Zealand

August 15, 2011

irishweatheronline

Snow makes for hazardous driving on New Zealand State Highway 94. Image: Barry Harcourt, The Southland Times

Snow makes for hazardous driving on New Zealand State Highway 94. Image: Barry Harcourt, The Southland Times

A new blast of cold weather gripped New Zealand over the weekend as the coldest winter in many years continued to affect large swathes of the country. Snow is currently falling in the South Island and in southern parts of the North Island too, with the northern city of Auckland seeing its first snow since 1939. Sunday saw Wellington’s greatest snowfall for 30 years.

July 22 – 25th was previously the coldest snap since 1995, with snowfall causing disruption across the South Island and some parts of the North Island. Today’s snowfall been more widespread, however, and snow was reported down to sea level in the city of Wellington and other parts of the North Island. The New Zealand Met Serviceis predicting falls of 20 – 35 cm above 300 m in the Wellington area, with lesser falls continuing at lower levels.

A Severe Weather Warning issued Sunday evening stated “An extremely cold southerly outbreak has already brought snow to most of the South Island and southern and central parts of the North Island. Snow is forecast to continue tonight and during Monday, with significant accumulations possible in many places. Further heavy snow is likely on Tuesday.”

It continued “The heavy snow is likely to cause major disruptions to travel and make driving conditions very difficult. In addition to this, the weight of accumulated snow on structures such as powerlines and on trees could cause damage. Strong southerlies, gale about exposed coasts with the cold temperatures will make the wind feel bitterly cold and create blizzard like conditions in some places. Farmers are advised that stock may need shelter, particularly in view of the severity and duration of this event.”

Irish film-maker Ro Tierney shot the stunned Wellington residents’ reaction to the snow, with some of them having never witnessed it before.

 

850 hPa chart for 12 UTC Sunday 14th August, 2011 (00 hrs local time Monday 15th August). Image: Ogimet.com

850 hPa (~1,400 m altitude) chart for 12 UTC Sunday 14th August, 2011 (00 hrs local time Monday 15th August). Image: Ogimet.com

The reason for the extreme cold is a strong southwesterly flow straight off the Antarctic ice shelf, caused by a combination of high pressure over Tasmania and low pressure east of New Zealand. With an unobstructed path over the anomalously cold sea waters, the Antarctic airmass picked up enough moisture to generate the snowfall as it reached New Zealand.

For a live camera feed of Wellington, click here.

New Zealand Met Service

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