First tropical cyclone of the season may threaten Western Australia in final days of 2017

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
December 25, 2017, 10:28:31 AM EST

The first tropical cyclone in the Australian Basin may form this week with Western Australia being put on alert for potential impacts.

While the tropics surrounding Australia are currently quiet, there is growing concern that a tropical cyclone will develop offshore of northwestern Australia by later this week.

"Conditions are favorable enough for an area of disturbed weather over the Timor Sea to consolidate into one main low and head toward the Kimberley coast through midweek," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls.

There are a multitude of tracks that this low could take as it moves south and west. For now, the most likely scenario is a sideswipe of the northern Australia coast north of Broome and Derby.

Australia 12.25

Impacts from this tropical low could begin as early as Wednesday, local time, for the northern coasts of Western Australia.

With a track so close to the coastline, the interaction with land could inhibit any further strengthening until later in the week.

However, waves of heavy, tropical rain will still move inland. Any areas that get trapped under a more persistent band of rain could get flash flooding.

The Broome and Derby areas on northward are not the only areas in northwestern Australia that should be on alert.

"Should the low remain off the coast and in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, there is a window for further development into a tropical cyclone," Nicholls added.

A Category 1 cyclone (based on the Bureau of Meteorology scale, which is the equivalent of a tropical storm in the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans) can threaten western Australia with heavy rain and flooding. There can be disruptions to travel and daily routines.

If the low remains off the coast through the northern stretch of the track, the threat for heavy rain and flooding will extend along the Pilbara coast late this week and into the weekend. If the low increases in strength during this time, areas from Broome to Port Hedland might need to be prepared for gustier winds as well.

Seas will also become rough for boaters and swimmers as the cyclone takes shape. Depending on the exact track and if there is a landfall of the system before it dissipates, storm surge flooding could also be an issue.

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The formation of this cyclone will commence what AccuWeather long-range meteorologists anticipate will be a near-normal tropical season across the Australian Basin.

A total of 10 tropical cyclones is expected. Four to five of those can become severe tropical cyclones with sustained winds in excess of 118 km/h (73 mph).

"Regardless of the number of storms, we envision another season with several tropical lows impacting northern Australia, much like last season, which could result in flooding," the long-range team stated.

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