Firefighters are nervous as a climate scientist predicts temperatures could pierce the 40 degrees Celsius mark along the east coast today.
Climate scientist Jim Salinger said parts of the South Island's east coast between Timaru and Marlborough could top 40C, while parched Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay look set to swelter in the high 30s.
Dr Salinger said the heatwave was being buoyed by gentle norwesterlies and warm air clashing with the tail end of tropical cyclone Oswald, mirroring conditions that created a 40C-plus day in Canterbury on February 7, 1973, when the temperature in Rangiora hit 42.4C.
Niwa records show the temperature has officially topped 40C on only three occasions, all in the South Island.
MetService forecaster Dan Corbett doubted temperatures would hit the 40s. It was more likely the east coasts of both islands would reach the low and mid 30s, he said.
In the south people have also sweltered in the sunshine.
Southland, so far has had a week of sunshine with the hot weather predicted to continue all week.
Invercargill was predicted to reach 27degC but the MetService website says the temperature is 23degC.
Queenstown was predicted to reach 29degC but has reached 27degC.
While Wanaka has hit 30degC, according to the MetService.
NEW ZEALAND'S TOP 40S
February 7, 1973 Rangiora, 42.4C Christchurch, 41.6C Ashburton, 41.3
February 6, 2011 Timaru, 41.3C
January 22, 1908 Timaru 40C.
The hottest recorded temperature in the North Island was 39.2C at Ruatoria, also on February 7, 1973.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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