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The Weather and your 4X4 Trip

One of the amazing things about the South Island of New Zealand is its diversity in terms of landscapes and climates. We have everything from the sub-tropical rainforests of the West Coast to the dry arid conditions of the East Coast. The climates vary enormously from Maritime to Continental. Central Otago has a Continental climate and despite being so far South, often records the highest temperatures in NZ.

We also have High Country valleys with our famous braided rivers and high sub alpine areas such as we can find in Central Otago.

Depending on where you’re planning on going, these areas are more or less remote and special care needs to be given before venturing out.

In previous articles, we have looked at planning your trip, leaving your intentions with a trusted party and what you should be carrying in your truck. In this article, we will be looking at the weather.

Photo 1 of The Weather and your 4X4 Trip

The weather in New Zealand can change very quickly and it’s easy to get caught out. Whilst it’s generally fair to say the it’s warmer in summer than in winter, there are lots of things to consider.

Tracks are much easier to tackle in the dry than in the wet. Tracks like the Old Dunstan Road, can be a pleasure in the dry but the clay soil will quickly become much more difficult and maybe unpassable after rain.

During the Spring, snow melt will occur and many of the rivers will rise, become milky and uncrossable. We will be writing a separate article covering river crossings in the future.

Further South, a Southerly change in wind direction can quickly turn a beautiful sunny day into a bitterly cold day with snow. Remember the 4WD group caught out on the Waikaia Bush Road in May 2016. When they set out, the weather was clear and yet they became overcome with very heavy snow fall and remained stuck for several days.

Photo 2 of The Weather and your 4X4 Trip

Around Canterbury, a “Norwester” can quickly bring violently strong winds and driving rain.

So what should you do?

Local knowledge is always valuable and planning is always crucial. Social media and the plethora of Overlanding pages is a good place to start. Ask if anyone has recently driven the track that you intend to drive and what the conditions were like. Remember that things can change rapidly, so this will only give you an indication.

Locals, and particularly farmers will have a good idea of what the weather has been like and what is to come.

There are also many sources of weather forecasting available to us here in New Zealand. Surprisingly, one of the most accurate and one that we use most often is an App called YR, available on the Appstore, or wherever you download your APPs.

YR is an APP produced by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. It was launched in 2007 and is amazing. I have no idea how it works, but you can enter addresses, such as huts and get a very accurate long range forecast.

Photo 3 of The Weather and your 4X4 Trip

If you’re heading somewhere remote, it’s also important to keep an eye on the weather before you leave, so that you have an understanding of what’s been happening before you arrive.

MetVUW is also another good source of information, as is MetService. We normally have a look at all the available sources to get a good picture on what to expect.

Remember that if your Route involves river work, check to see what’s happening upstream in the catchment area. It might not be raining where you are, but it might be upstream.

As always, we hope that this has been an enjoyable and informative read. Stay safe and we look forward to seeing you out on the tracks!

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