Where to see vivid sunsets brought on by Australian dust cloud

The cloud of dust making its way from Australia to New Zealand could bring striking sunsets to some parts of the country, a meteorologist says. 

While smoke, pollution or sand in the air isn't great for our respiratory systems, those particles in the air often create vivid sunsets. 

"You'll notice when the sun is at a low angle, the blue light is refracted away by particles in the atmosphere and the red light is allowed to pass through more," MetService meteorologist Andy Best said. 

With the dust cloud hitting the country's west coast on Thursday, he said the most likely places that will get striking sunsets include Cape Egmont in Taranaki, down to Wellington and Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island. 

Fiordland is currently being hit by the dust, but people there probably won't notice much dust around because of a low that's brought rain to the area, hence washing out any dust that's collected, Mr Best said. 

It may be later on Thursday afternoon or evening when people in the north of the South Island notice the dust, and they "may see it on cars or windshields or even plants in the garden", Mr Best told Newshub. 

He emphasised that it probably won't cause any respiratory problems, and that it's "going to be relatively inconsequential when it reaches land over here". 

He said most of the dust was "whipped up" from an area in southwest Queensland known as the Great Artesian Basin - an arid region that frequently experiences temperatures above 45gdegC.

The surface conditions in the area can be very dry, and dust can be lifted up by wind, and that's how it got picked up and pushed east to New Zealand, Mr Best explained. 

"That dust was picked up... and brought across the Tasman Sea during the course of yesterday and this morning. Currently that cold front is on Fiordland and bringing rain there."

He said the dust cloud has "certainly decreased in its amount" as it's come across the Tasman Sea, and now "isn't as prominent" as it was when it left the coast of Australia. 

"But we can still see it on visible satellite imagery," he said. 

"The dust was in a belt about 600km wide and 1000km long when it started."


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