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Severe weather, tornadoes in Auckland - experts respond

Severe weather, tornadoes in Auckland
- experts respond

6 Dec 2012

Severe weather in Auckland today, including a series of tornadoes, has left three dead, causing surface flooding and storm damage in western suburbs and the North Shore.

Meteorologists warn that more severe weather is likely in the Central North Island tonight.

In May last year, a tornado strike hit the Auckland suburb of Albany, killing one man -- the first such fatality in the area in 20 years.

Dr James Renwick, Assoc Prof of Physical Geography, Victoria University of Wellington comments:

Is this a pattern, part of a larger trend related to climate change and increasingly extreme weather?

"Damaging tornado events are associated with localised severe thunderstorm activity -- but analysis of weather records does not show a pattern, nor are there trends obvious in tornado occurrences.

"These events strike at random from time to time, but they are very localised and sporadic and are not obviously tied to trends in the large-scale climate. At this stage, we have no indication that tornado occurrences will become more or less frequent in future."

Dr Marwan Katurji, Lecturer in Meteorology, University of Canterbury comments:

"The North Island, especially the west coast, is more vulnerable to westerly and northerly winds that are associated with weather fronts. Warm moist air from the warmer Tasman Sea carries within it embedded thunderstorms. When the air hits land it interacts with the topography to create convergence zones and the wind speeds are higher in these areas and the storms get more severe in this case.

"The Auckland region is one of the hot spots for this activity which promotes tornadoes, though Taranaki region is the record holder."


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