Winter's icy breath will be felt today, forecast to be the coldest of the year for most of the country thanks to a wintry blast bringing polar air from Antarctica.
WeatherWatch.co.nz forecasters say today will easily be the coldest of 2013 and brutal in places. Some parts of the lower South Island are predicted to be as cold as -9C.
Head weather analyst Philip Duncan said this blast would be bone chilling but traditional winter conditions were not expected to set in for a while.
"This is basically a warning shot from winter - it's not arriving yet, instead it's saying 'I'm just around the corner'."
Napier is forecast to have a high of just 12C today with cold showery southwesterlies, while Hastings will have a high of only 10C. The overnight low, dropping to 2C in the twin cities, will force people to start their first wood fires of the year. Dannevirke will feel the full brunt of the antarctic weather with a high of only 6C and dropping to 0C overnight.
While winter officially arrives on Saturday, Mr Duncan said the weather didn't always link up with the change of seasons. He said despite our oddly dry start to the year the second half of autumn had seen the weather pattern fall back into a far more normal one.
"This wintry snap is very cold for May but it is short lived. In fact as early as Tuesday afternoon the air flow over Southland and Otago will actually change and warm up - it may not be hugely noticeable but the coldest air in this polar blast will be over the North Island then pushing out east of New Zealand by late Tuesday," he said.
WeatherWatch says by Wednesday many main centres will have sunnier weather - with temperatures slowly lifting during the day - then fully bouncing back on Friday and Saturday to where they were before this cold snap arrived.
"This weather pattern is very much an autumn one - the truly wintry weather is still at least a month or so away."
Napier and Hastings will return to sunshine and warmer temperatures from Thursday, as dry northwesterlies bring highs of about 18C.