Authorities are warning West Australians to brace for the worst cyclone season in years, with a higher number predicted to cross the coast earlier than usual this year. The stark warning follows last year’s “quiet season”, which produced cyclone Laurence – a category five storm that devastated parts of the Pilbara. The forecast from the WA Bureau of Meteorology is for seven cyclones this season, five more than last year and two above average.
At least one of these is predicted to hit the coast before Christmas and two are forecast to be severe. “This season there is a higher-than-normal risk of a pre-Christmas cyclone and with the cyclone season rapidly approaching it is important that residents start preparations immediately” WA Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre’s meteorologist Brad Santos said.
La Nina conditions, where lower sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean create a see-saw of pressure that triggers dramatic thunderstorm and cyclone activity, are why forecasters are so worried. “Sea surface temperatures off the northwest coast are warmer than usual and climate modelling suggests that the current La Niña event will persist into the cyclone season. “This increases the chance of an early season cyclone and also boosts the number of cyclones we are likely to see over the whole season.” “We are likely to have more cyclones this season than last, and we have a much greater chance of a pre-Christmas cyclone.”
Coastal communities between Broome and Exmouth face the highest cyclone risk of anywhere in Australia. “At this early stage, it is impossible to predict the likely onset, path or intensity of any individual cyclone that might occur. Everyone in the North West needs to be prepared from the start of the season on 1 November,” Mr Santos said.