Severe Weather Warnings and Watches

MetService is New Zealand’s only authorised provider of Severe Weather Watches and Warnings.

In May 2019, MetService introduced a new level of warning reserved for the most extreme weather events, as well as new colours and graphics, to more clearly signify the type of alert in place.

MetService provides land-based severe weather alerts through a system of Outlooks, Watches and Warnings.


Severe Weather Watches

All Severe Weather Watches are yellow.

General Watch

A Watch - stay alert
Watches are represented by a yellow colour-code and accompanied by a circle icon. When a Watch is in place, stay alert and keep an eye on your local forecast for updates. Watches are used when severe weather is possible, but not imminent or certain.


Severe Weather Warnings

Severe Weather Warnings for heavy rain, strong wind or heavy snow, are classified into one of two categories: Orange Warnings or Red Warnings

General WarningOrange Warning - take action
Used when the forecast indicates incoming bad weather (expected heavy rain, strong wind or heavy snow) will meet our Severe Weather Criteria.  It signifies that people need to be prepared and take action as appropriate as there could be some disruption to their day and potential risk to people, animals and property. The majority of warnings issued by MetService will be orange. An Orange Warning will always be displayed as a hexagon icon.


General Severe Warning

Red Warning - take immediate action, act now!
Reserved for only the most extreme weather events, such the severe weather resulting from ex-tropical cyclones, where significant impact and disruption is expected.  It signifies that people need to act now as immediate action is required to protect people, animals and property from the impact of the weather. People should also be prepared to follow the advice of official authorities and emergency services. Red Warning icons will always be displayed as a triangle.


For Thunderstorms

Due to the rapid onset and damaging nature of severe thunderstorms, A Thunderstorm Warning will only ever be signified by the colour red and will simply be called a Thunderstorm Warning.



Why did we introduce Orange and Red Warnings?

We believe there is a need to differentiate extreme weather events and communicate in a way that really draws attention to our most extreme events.

With the introduction of two levels of warnings we aimed to give people greater clarity about what to expect from a weather event, enabling them to be better prepared for the particular severe weather conditions.

The use of colour-coded warnings linked to impacts is recommended by the World Meteorological Organisation, of which the MetService is a member.



What is the difference between an outlook, a watch and a warning, and what should I do?

Severe Weather Outlooks

  • We can see bad weather coming in the next 3-6 days where a Watch or Warning may be required.
  • The Outlook is a ‘heads up’ that although we can see something coming, there is some uncertainty about what might happen and where.
  • There is no immediate threat, but you should be aware of what could be coming.

Severe Weather Watches

  • The closer an event gets and when we can add details for timing, location and intensity, we will issue a Watch (yellow colour code).
  • Watches are typically issued 1 - 3 days in advance of potential severe weather.
  • A Watch will be issued when we know bad weather is coming and it will be significant but not serious enough to reach ‘warning’ criteria, or when there is uncertainty about what might happen. 
  • Stay alert to the forecast and be prepared that you may be affected. 

Severe Weather Warnings

Orange Warning

  • When our forecasters are confident about what is going to happen, and where, and the impacts of this weather will be significant, we will issue an Orange Warning.  
  • The event must meet the severe weather criteria
  • Warnings are typically issued 1 - 3 days in advance of potential severe weather.
  • When an Orange Warning is in place take action and be prepared for significant disruption to your day and potential risk to people, animals and property

Red Warning

  • When an event is expected to be among the worst that we get – it will have significant impact and it is possible that a lot of people will be affected.
  • During a Red Warning, Act now!  Immediate action is required to protect property, people and animals from the impact of the weather. 
  • People should also be prepared to follow the advice of official authorities and emergency services. 


Where can I find out more?

This Severe Weather One-pager outlines information about what severe weather is, the criteria used to define severe weather, and when Watches and Warnings are issued.

View our media release about Changes to the official Severe Weather Warnings (issued 14 May). 

We have posters for school and workplaces that outlines what to do for each type of severe weather event. 

If you have a question relating to our Severe Weather Warning changes contact us by email.