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3 cyclones mark slowest tropical season on record for Australia

By By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
May 02, 2016, 5:51:36 AM EDT

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As the Australian tropical season officially concludes 30 April, the calmest season in decades will come to an end.

The season, which officially runs from 1 November through 30 April, has endured only three named cyclones originating within the Australian Tropical Basin.

Having only three named storms of Category 1 strength or higher in the basin would be the fewest dating back to 1970, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

According to Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls, "El Niño played an important role in the low activity of the tropical season as tropical development flourished closer to Fiji and Vanuatu and away from Australia." El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific, near the equator which influences global weather patterns.


Nicholls added, “A positive Indian Ocean Dipole during the early season limited development near Western Australia.” The Indian Ocean Dipole is a measure of heat across the Indian Ocean from west to east. A positive event occurs with cooler-than-normal waters near and northwest of Australia. As a result, the first landfall did not occur in Australia until late January.

Tropical Cyclones Stan, Uriah and Tatiana each strengthened to Category 2 tropical cyclone strength on the BOM scale, which means peak winds ranged between 88 and 142 km/h (55 and 74 mph).

The strongest storm this season in the basin was Stan, which had sustained winds of 113 km/h (70 mph) prior to making landfall in northwest Western Australia in late January. Stan impacted commodities such as oil, natural gas and iron ore, but while flooding did occur, impacts were limited due to the low population of the region.


Tropical Cyclone Uriah was the strongest storm that originated in the Australia basin; however, peak intensity was reached after the storm tracked southwest into the southern Indian Ocean basin. At peak intensity, Uriah had sustained winds of 233 km/h (145 mph) over the open Indian Ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Tatiana developed in the Coral Sea and strengthened, with peak winds reaching 97 km/h (60 mph) as it tracked between Australia and New Caledonia. Tatiana never made landfall and dissipated over the open ocean.

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Extra-tropical Cyclone Winston, which brought devastation to Fiji, weakened prior to moving westward into the Australia Basin. Winston did eventually make landfall as a tropical low in northern Queensland, enhancing rainfall across the region.

A fourth tropical system impacted Australia as a strong tropical low tracked across the southern Gulf of Carpentaria in the middle of March. While the BOM never officially named the tropical system, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center did briefly assign tropical cyclone status to the storm before it made landfall. The storm brought heavy rainfall and flooding to northern Queensland.

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