Cyclone tracks for Australia

It is amazing how critically important the path of a cyclone is. Cyclone Debbie flattened resort islands and then crossed the Queensland coast as a category 4 system smashing the picturesque town of Airlie Beach. As I write this post, Brisbane is a ghost town – all schools closed, all public servants sent home, most shops shut – as the massive rain depression that was Cyclone Debbie unloads on Brisbane.

This Cyclone Debbie experience peaked my curiosity firstly about how often cyclones come to my home city of Brisbane. More generally I was interested in the distribution of cyclones across the coast as well as the ‘peak’ cyclone season.

Figure 1 shows the cyclones that have crossed the Australian Coast since 1969. I have queued up the cyclones to create the animation showing when in the year each cyclone occurred. Figure 1 starts off with lots of white triangles showing the start of the cyclone track. Make sure you watch until the time counter gets to February – you will see the triangles go orange and increase in size depending on the cyclone intensity.

Figure 1: Cyclone tracks for Australia – zoom in to local area, turn some layers off if its too cluttered (by clicking on the years), pause the play button, click on a cyclone to see the pressure level (data source Bureau of Meteorology and Australian Severe Weather ).

Brisbane has avoided major cyclones (Daisy in 1972 and Wanda in 1974 came pretty close). Two hundred and twenty (220) cyclones have crossed the Australian coast (1969-2016). There has been a dramatic amount of cyclone activity through January, February and March (Figure 2) when the sea temperatures are warmest.

Figure 2: Number of cyclones by month – January and February are peak months for cyclones

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