A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the central North Island tonight.

MetService said very warm afternoon temperatures and a moist unstable atmosphere is triggering scattered showers and that some of these showers are expected to develop into thunderstorms.

The severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, Hawkes Bay and Taihape.

The main risk of thunderstorms is around Taupo, eastern Taihape and Hawkes Bay.

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A few of these thunderstorms may become severe, with 25mm-40mm of heavy localised rainfall in an hour.

There is also a lower risk of thunderstorms in Waikato and Gisborne, and south towards the Manawatu Gorge.

MetService said rainfall of this intensity could cause flash flooding, especially in low lying areas.

Driving conditions could also become dangerous, with surface flooding and poor visibility.

WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said there would be a few big downpours and thunderstorms around the King Country rural areas and the Hawkes Bay ranges, before fading away as the sun sets.