Radar and satellite images from the Fiji Meteorological Service showing the intensifying category 2 cyclone Sarai over the islands. Source: Fiji Meteorological Service
Radar and satellite images from the Fiji Meteorological Service showing the intensifying category 2 cyclone Sarai over the islands. Source: Fiji Meteorological Service

Cyclone watchers premature in suggesting Fraser Is landfall

WEATHER modelling on Sunday that showed the slim chance of a cyclone forming over the Coral Sea, travelling down the Queensland coast and making landfall at Fraser Island was all but dismissed by the Bureau of Meteorology today.

 

QUEENSLAND CYCLONES: The day Debbie unleashed her destruction

 

Weather watchers on social media pointed out a GFS Model on Sunday that had a cyclone developing between February 2-7, causing catastrophic flooding.

Houses are surrounded by floodwaters at Depot Hill in Rockhampton, Thursday, April 6, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie are expected inundate parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River expected to reach 9 metres at midday on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING
Houses are surrounded by floodwaters at Depot Hill in Rockhampton, Thursday, April 6, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie are expected inundate parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River expected to reach 9 metres at midday on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING

But by today that modelling had disappeared and there are no lows in the Coral Sea.

BoM meteorologist Peter Markworth said Australia's peak cyclone season was February/March, but that the only low being watched today was near the Solomon Islands, "and we are not expecting any development from that at this stage".

The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie thrashed the Fraser Coast on Thursday, March 30.
The remnants of Tropical Cyclone Debbie thrashed the Fraser Coast on Thursday, March 30.

Mr Markworth said it was a very rare occurrence for a cyclone to get as far south as Fraser Island. He also said GFS models were run every 12 hours and that a week was a long time in weather forecasting, when things could change very rapidly.

The current weather activity in the Coral Sea suggested "very little to no chance" of a cyclone developing, he said.

"At the moment there is definitely nothing happening. The low is no longer there and there is no consistency there between different model runs."

The chance of cyclone heading down the Queensland coast this season is very very low, he said.

The rains from Cyclone Debbie dump on Bundaberg
The rains from Cyclone Debbie dump on Bundaberg

At least one tropical cyclone has crossed the Australian coast each season since reliable records began in the 1970s.

"That is yet to happen this season," Mr Markworth said.

Fewer than average tropical cyclones are expected in the Australian region between now and the end of April, the official full length of the cyclone season.

Higher than average pressure over northern Australia and a neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have influenced this year's tropical cyclone outlook.

During ENSO-neutral cyclone seasons, the first cyclone to cross the coast is typically in late December.

UNDERWATER: Flooding in the aftermath of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the Gladstone Region.
UNDERWATER: Flooding in the aftermath of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the Gladstone Region.

Cyclone formation is rarely spread evenly throughout the season; often quiet periods are followed by bursts of activity.

Tropical lows that do not intensify into cyclones, or lows that are the remnants of older cyclones, can still cause widespread rainfall and dangerous flooding. These impacts can extend beyond the tropics into southern areas of the country.

Tropical cyclones that stay well out to sea can still cause damaging winds, large and dangerous waves, and storm surges along the coast.

The Australian region has a 35% chance of more tropical cyclones than average, meaning a 65% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average.

Typically, around four tropical cyclones cross the Australian coast in a season. Outlook accuracy for the Australian region is high.

A man and his dog walk through floodwaters in Rockhampton, Friday, April 7, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie have inundated parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River peaking at 8.8 metres on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING
A man and his dog walk through floodwaters in Rockhampton, Friday, April 7, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie have inundated parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River peaking at 8.8 metres on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING

The Western region is likely to experience a below-average number of tropical cyclones this season, with a 57% likelihood of fewer than average. The likelihood of more cyclones than average is 43%. Typically between about 15% and 40% of tropical cyclones in the Western region affect coastal regions. Outlook accuracy for the Western region is low.

The Northwestern sub-region has a 39% chance of more tropical cyclones than average and a 61% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average. Typically, five cyclones form in, or pass through, this area each season. Around 40% of tropical cyclones, or their associated tropical lows, affect coastal areas of the Northwestern sub-region. Outlook accuracy for this region is moderate.

Houses are surrounded by floodwaters at Depot Hill in Rockhampton, Thursday, April 6, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie are expected inundate parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River expected to reach 9 metres at midday on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING
Houses are surrounded by floodwaters at Depot Hill in Rockhampton, Thursday, April 6, 2017. Floodwaters resulting from ex-cyclone Debbie are expected inundate parts of Rockhampton with the Fitzroy River expected to reach 9 metres at midday on Thursday. (AAP Image/Dan Peled) NO ARCHIVING

The outlook for the Northern region suggests a below average number of tropical cyclones, with a 36% chance of more than average and a 64% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average. In a typical year the Northern region experiences around three cyclones, and one or two tropical lows that later become cyclones after moving into the Western or Eastern regions. About three-quarters of the tropical cyclones in the Northern region impact coastal areas. Outlook accuracy for this region is very low.

The Eastern region outlook shows a below-average season is most likely, with a 43% chance of more tropical cyclones than average and a 57% chance of fewer. About a quarter of tropical cyclones in the Eastern region make landfall. Outlook accuracy for this region is low.