Winter makes chilly comeback

By Kirsty Wynn, Zac Fleming

The entire country will be hit by a cold snap this week - sending temperatures down again after last week's mild respite.

A severe weather warning applies until 3pm today for Wellington and Wairarapa with severe gales up to 130km/h forecast.

A severe weather watch is also in effect for Central Hawke's Bay and Tararua, where winds this evening will reach up to 110km/h.

WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan said warm weather in winter was often followed by a cold spell.

"Winter is hitting the reset button," he said.

Big snow dumps were likely for skifields at Ruapehu and in the South Island but snow could also hit the Desert Road on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The storm which yesterday battered the South Island storm will continue to wreak havoc in parts of the country today.

Nearly 10,000 Christchurch residents were without power, mostly because of trees falling on to power lines.

Auckland will be mostly unaffected by the storms in the south, escaping with only a bit of rain.

Meanwhile, weather forecasts are being publicly funded on two fronts, as Niwa and MetService are now offering short-range forecasts.

The launch of Niwa's new short-range service for farmers and growers puts it head-to-head with MetService, and private forecasters are worried the Government forecasters' combined clout could force them out of the market.

Niwa is publicly funded as a Crown Research Institute, and MetService receives Ministry of Transport money to provide forecasting and severe weather warning services.

MetService spokeswoman Jacqui Bridges said there were differences between the services, but customers were asking why publicly funded services were competing.

"MetService is a commercial service so we compete. If people want to compete with us they can compete with us and we are up for that."

Niwa chief scientist for atmosphere, Dr Murray Poulter, would not comment on the relationship between MetService and Niwa.

Weatherwatch's Duncan supported Niwa branching out from weather and climate research.

"I am cautiously optimistic that a closer WeatherWatch and Niwa relationship is going to be a very positive change," he said.

But he added: "I don't think there should be two separate government forecasters competing in the same market, at the expense of private providers and, ultimately, the public."

- Herald on Sunday

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