Frost-fighting efforts have shifted into overdrive on New Zealand’s South Island as a brutal Antarctic blast rips through the region — the first blast of many, according to NIWA forecasts.
Otago, a southeastern region of NZ’s South Island, is home to the buds of millions of dollars worth of stone-fruit. Forecasters say temperatures in central Otago plummeted to a bruising -5C (23F) on Tues morning, Sept 10.
Sprinklers were turned-on so as to deliberately encase the tender fruit in a protective clear-ice casing — an age-old method of frost-fighting. While helicopters and wind machines were also drafted-in to blow warm air over the orchards.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Tim Jones, chief executive of 45 South Orchard and Packhouse in Cromwell, who expects the cold to stick around for at least another month.
“NIWA has got some news out there that this could be a challenging spring,” Jones added.
New Zealand has a higher-than-usual risk of sharp cold snaps and unsettled weather during the first half of the season, according to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
A rare sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event is occurring 30-50 km above Antarctica which is already leading to unusual and extreme weather in parts of the Southern Hemisphere.
SSWs are a dramatic warming of the air at the stratospheric level — a minor event is defined as a warming of at least 25C in less than a week, while a major event involves both a substantial warming as well as a split in the polar vortex.
Looking back, there have only been two SSWs on record in the Southern Hemisphere — one in September 2002 (major) and another in September 2010 (minor).
In 2002, New Zealand suffered average temperatures that were 3C below the norm.
“I do recall [the year of 2002] had an awful lot of frosts right throughout the spring,” Jones continued, “particularly leading on into October and November.”
The cold times are returning, in line with historically low solar activity.
Grand Solar Minimum + Pole Shift
For a little more on the jet streams, see:
And for NASA’s solar forecast revealing SC25 will be “the weakest of the past 200 years,” see: