One Question Quiz
Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

MediaFebruary 18, 2023

What did we search for online during Cyclone Gabrielle?

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Never before have so many New Zealanders googled ‘weather’.

As the brutal spiral in the sky barrelled its way towards the North Island, little wonder that New Zealanders were looking it up online. According to data provided to The Spinoff by Google News Lab, “Cyclone Gabrielle” was the most searched term in the country for five days from February 9 to 13.

Recent days also saw record search levels in New Zealand for the topics Cyclone, Tropical Cyclone, Outages and Weather. Search interest in cyclones hit a peak almost eight times higher than the previous high point, in 2018.

‘Weather’ searches


‘Cyclone’ searches

Other searches that spiked to record highs: “insurance”, “State of Emergency” and “Wairoa”. Tuesday saw more than 50,000 searches for the northern Hawke’s Bay town that remains largely disconnected from the country. Upsettingly, “Muriwai slip” and “missing firefighter” similarly surged.

‘State of emergency’ searches

‘Outage’ searches

The most cyclone-related Google searches, proportionate to population, were as follows:

1. Raukūmara Forest Park
2. Waiuku
3. Paeroa
4. Katikati
5. Kerikeri
6. Whangarei
7. Poroporo
8. Pokeno
9. Kawakawa
10. Langs Beach

The top questions on Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand across the past week:

1. Where is Cyclone Gabrielle?
2. What category is Cyclone Gabrielle?
3. When will Cyclone Gabrielle hit Auckland?
4. When is Cyclone Gabrielle hitting New Zealand?
5. Will Cyclone Gabrielle hit Wellington?
6. Is Cyclone Gabrielle dangerous?
7. How long will Cyclone Gabrielle last?
8. Is Cyclone Gabrielle over?
9. Is Cyclone Gabrielle going to hit Christchurch?
10. Has Cyclone Gabrielle passed Auckland?
11. Why is it called Cyclone Gabrielle?
12. When did Cyclone Gabrielle start?

The top “how to” searches on cyclones over the past week:

1. How to prepare for a cyclone?
2. How to survive a cyclone?
3. How to track Cyclone Gabrielle?
4. How to stay safe during a cyclone?
5. How to help cyclone victims?
6. How to stop a cyclone?
7. How to prepare your house for a cyclone?
8. How to tie down a trampoline?
9. How to protect windows in a cyclone?
10. How to read a cyclone map?

On outages, the top questions were these:

1. How to find out if there is a power outage in your area?
2. When will the Vodafone outage be fixed?
3. When will my power be back on?
4. Will there be a power outage in my area?
5. How to prepare for a power outage?
6. How to report a power outage?
7. What areas in Auckland have a power outage today?
8. Is there a power cut in Whangarei?
9. What to do in a power outage?
10. Is there a Vodafone outage?

It wasn’t all storm-chasing, mind you. Two of the big leaps in searches were for Rihanna and the New Zealander who choreographed her Super Bowl halftime show, Parris Goebel.

Search interest in Rihanna in the past week in New Zealand was higher than any other week on record, while interest in Parris Goebel was up 2390% in New Zealand compared with the previous week.

Keep going!