Weather: Temperatures could soar to 38C in Canterbury, warnings about fire danger, health risks

Temperatures in Christchurch could soar to up to 38C on Tuesday with residents urged to stay hydrated, avoid going outside in the hottest parts of the day and keep an eye out for any fires. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, NIWA's Chris Brandolino said eastern parts of Canterbury, including Christchurch, Ashburton, Culverden, Amberley and Darfield, should expect a steamy day, with temperatures storming past 35C.

"Some of the hottest locations will probably get to 37C, maybe a bit higher. We will see," he said. "If we are watching for maybe near-records for the month of January, I think we are going to have to get close to 35.5C or 36C to get in the top three or four."

"I wouldn't rule out 38C, but I think it is more probable that we don't get to 38C. We will get darn close. We do have to watch things like wind because of the fire threat, like we are seeing down in Christchurch."

Seven fire crews on Monday battled a 20-hectare vegetation blaze at Pines Beach near Christchurch. While that fire is now contained, it is not yet extinguished and two crews of six will continue work on Tuesday with a 25-tonne excavator assisting.

"Two helicopters and a fixed wing water bomber will be also be on standby for this fire if required or any other that might occur in this hot weather," said principal rural fire officer Bruce Janes

Residents are being asked to be extra vigilant about fire danger as temperatures jump. 

The Canterbury District Health Board is also reminding locals to keep cool and stay hydrated. 

"It's especially important to stay out of the sun where possible, avoid extreme physical exertion and ensure pets and people are not left alone in stationary cars," says medical officer of health Dr Ramon Pink.

"While we are all vulnerable to hot temperatures, some people are particularly at risk. This includes the elderly, infants and children, women who are pregnant, people suffering from chronic, acute and severe illness."

It's advised that residents drink plenty of water, avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine, wear light clothing and a hat, stay in the shade, and don't go outside during the hottest hours of the day. 

Brandolino told The AM Show that it's normally hottest between 2:30pm and 4:30pm, but central Christchurch may not hit its high until between 6:30pm and 7:30pm. 

"There is going to be a north-east wind in Christchurch, north of Banks Peninsula. That will keep temperatures from getting crazy, in terms of really hot, but once the north-west wind punches through temperatures will jump up in Christchurch. Our modelling is showing that may not happen until very late in the day."

Elsewhere, Weatherwatch reports Marlborough and Hawke's Bay could also reach the mid-30s over the next two days. Auckland will sit around the mid-20s. 

Temperatures are set to tumble on Thursday down to about 20C, with snow even possible on mountain tops. 

"Daytime highs will struggle to even reach the teens in some parts of Southland and Otago on Thursday then the cold air moves into the North Island Thursday night and across Friday," Weatherwatch says.

"For those camping Friday night may also be colder as high pressure rolls in and locks in the cooler air.

"By this weekend high pressure returns with hotter days and La Nina easterlies move back in."