Weather: Tropical Cyclone Niran builds near Australia, but New Zealand at low risk of direct hit

Tropical Cyclone Niran is tracking towards New Caledonia.
Tropical Cyclone Niran is tracking towards New Caledonia. Photo credit: Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland

New Zealand is unlikely to face the full force of a powerful tropical cyclone building to the north - but forecasters warn the Chatham Islands could get the dregs of the storm.

Tropical Cyclone Niran, situated in the Coral Sea just north-east of Australia, has just been upgraded to a Category 2 storm. It's brought strong winds, heavy rain and turbulent seas to Queensland in recent days, but will begin to move east on Wednesday.

Weather Watch says Niran is likely to build further in the coming days and could peak as high as Category 4.

"The sea surface temperatures there are about 29.5C, so this storm is in a perfect area to explode into life and get larger," says head forecaster Philip Duncan.

But New Zealand is at low risk of a direct hit at this stage, thanks to a growing ridge of high pressure in the Tasman Sea and a big southerly hovering over the country this week.

"The Chatham Islands may end up getting some of the leftovers as it possibly combines with a much larger southerly low that is expected to intensify this weekend in the New Zealand area," says Duncan.

While the worst of the storm looks likely to pass us by, other nations don't look to be quite as lucky.

New Caledonia is right in Niran's path, and "damaging gales and flooding rains" are likely this weekend, Weather Watch says, as well as possible coastal inundation and erosion.

"The cyclone may impact the entire nation," Duncan says.

The South Pacific Ocean recently moved into tropical cyclone season on November 1, 2020. The season lasts until April 30 this year, and comprises about 10 tropical cyclones in that period - only one of which will affect New Zealand on average, MetService says.

Earlier this week, NIWA Weather warned that while the week in New Zealand would start warm - thanks to air flowing from the tropical Coral Sea - balmy temperatures would soon give way to colder, windier weather this weekend as sub-antarctic winds kick in.

Western parts of the South Island and northern parts of the North Island are forecast to get plenty of rain this week, with those elsewhere enjoying mainly dry conditions.