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Solar storm: Where to see the aurora – are we set for another week of cold temperatures?

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Another opportunity for Kiwis to glimpse the aurora could be on the cards for some regions across Aotearoa tonight.

Stargazers across the country were treated last night to an incredible display of dazzling light across the southern skies. The Herald was inundated by readers’ photos, documenting what for many is likely to be a once in a lifetime event.

With more clear skies tonight, many will be hoping for another chase to capture the aurora.

MetService meteorologist Clare O’Connor said the stunning visual display was an uncommon sight for New Zealanders, but even more so for those in the Far North.

“In New Zealand, we’re not that far south and the closer you are to the poles the easier they are to spot. We do see the stronger ones, but to see them from Northland, that’s very uncommon.”

Otago University physics professor Craig Rodger told the Herald Aucklanders were sadly likely to be out of luck.

“If I was a betting man I would say the aurora show in Auckland last night probably won’t reoccur this decade.”

He advised hopeful aurora watchers with a keen eye to look south and for clear skies.

“The changes will be higher the further south one is in the country.”

Jeff Ng took this stunning photo of the aurora australis at Wellington's Owhiro Bay at 6.45pm on Saturday night. Photo / Jeff Ng
Jeff Ng took this stunning photo of the aurora australis at Wellington’s Owhiro Bay at 6.45pm on Saturday night. Photo / Jeff Ng

Rodger told RNZ the central and lower South Island regions were likely to see aurora activity again overnight but people in the upper North Island, like Auckland, were less likely to see it.

The US Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) showed the incredible patch of activity was set to fade by midnight, but another flare explosion on the Sun has hurled a solar tsunami towards Earth.

“So more auroral activity is possible tomorrow too. Once again, not Auckland aurora though.”

Auroras result from magnetosphere disruptions by solar wind, altering charged particle trajectories.

These particles then rise into the upper atmosphere, creating colourful displays.

Incredible shots of the Aurora Australis in Hawke's Bay could continue over the coming nights. Photo / Connull Lang
Incredible shots of the Aurora Australis in Hawke’s Bay could continue over the coming nights. Photo / Connull Lang

Are we set for another week of cold temperatures?

Today was the coldest morning of the year for some parts of Aotearoa. It has set the standard as we roll into the beginning of next week.

Temperatures dropped below zero in several regions in the early hours of Mother’s Day, and Auckland reached a chilly low of -0.4C in Whenuapai.

O’Connor said the coldest temperature recorded was in east Rangitāiki along State Highway 5 between Taupō and Napier, reaching a low of -8.7C.

About 6.30am this morning, Rotorua recorded its second-coldest temperature for the month since 1972 at -3.3 degrees.

Porters Pass (SH73) has had a light dusting of snow. Photo / George Heard
Porters Pass (SH73) has had a light dusting of snow. Photo / George Heard

Looking towards next week O’Connor said people living in the central North Island should continue to expect cooler than average mornings on Monday and Tuesday.

Temperatures are then likely to head back to a slightly warmer May average from Wednesday onwards.

O’Connor said the North Island may be up for a wet Wednesday morning, which could also affect the top of the South Island.

The rain is expected to clear for a mostly dry period at the end of the week for most of the country.

National power grid emergency

The national power grid emergency notice has been extended until 8pm tonight due to the extreme storm in space.

The cold start to the day risked putting extra strain on the country’s power supply, with some transmission lines in the North Island and South Island closed on Saturday as a precaution.

Transpower, which operates the national power grid, said in a statement that the storm could affect the Earth this weekend because of significant solar activity.

“As part of our contingency plan, we are removing some transmission lines from service across the South Island as a precaution. In order to do this, we have to issue a grid emergency notice, however, this initial action should not impact supply of electricity to consumers.”

Additional reporting RNZ.



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