2019–20 Australian region cyclone season

The 2019–20 Australian region cyclone season is the period of the year when most tropical cyclones form in the southern Indian and Pacific Oceans between 90°E and 160°E. The season officially began on 1 November 2019 and will end on 30 April 2020; however, a tropical cyclone could form at any time between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020 and would count towards the season total.

2019–20 Australian region cyclone season
2019-2020 Australian region cyclone season summary.png
Season summary map
Seasonal boundaries
First system formed4 January 2020
Last system dissipatedSeason ongoing
Strongest storm
NameDamien
 • Maximum winds150 km/h (90 mph)
(10-minute sustained)
 • Lowest pressure955 hPa (mbar)
Seasonal statistics
Tropical lows9
Tropical cyclones3
Severe tropical cyclones2
Total fatalities1
Total damageNone
Related articles
Australian region tropical cyclone seasons
2017–18, 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22

During the season, tropical cyclones will be officially monitored by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG), and the National Weather Service of Papua New Guinea. The United States' Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), and other national agencies such as the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS), the Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService), and Météo-France at La Réunion, will also monitor parts of the basin during the season.

Seasonal forecastsEdit

Source/Record Tropical
Cyclone
Severe
Tropical Cyclone
Ref
Record high: 21 12
Record low: 3 0
Average (1969-70 - 2018-19): 9-13  — [1]
NIWA October (135°E—120°W) 9-12 4 [2]
Region Average
number
Chance
of more
Chance
of less
Actual
activity
Overall
(90°E–160°E)
11 35% 65% 3
Western region
(90°E–125°E)
7 43% 57% 3
Northwestern sub-region
(105°E–130°E)
5 39% 61% 3
Northern region
(125°E–142.5°E)
3 36% 64% 1
Eastern region
(142.5°E–160°E)
4 43% 57% 0
Western South Pacific
(142.5°E—165°E)
4 54% 46% 0
Eastern South Pacific
(165°E—120°W)
7 41% 59% 0
Source: BOM's Season Outlooks for Tropical Cyclones[1][3]

Ahead of the cyclone season formally starting on November 1, the BoM, Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS), New Zealand's MetService and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and various other Pacific Meteorological services, all contributed towards the Island Climate Update tropical cyclone outlook that was released during October 2019.[2] The outlook called for a near-average number of tropical cyclones for the 2019–20 season, with nine to twelve named tropical cyclones, predicted to occur between 135°E and 120°W, compared to an average of just over 10.[2] At least four of the tropical cyclones were expected to intensify further and become severe tropical cyclones, while it was noted that a Category 5 severe tropical cyclone could occur during the season.[2] In addition to contributing towards the Island Climate Update outlook, the BoM issued seven seasonal forecasts for various parts of the Australian region and South Pacific basin.[1][3] For the entire Australian region between 90°E–160°E, the BoM predicted that the season would feature, a below-average amount of systems with only a 35% chance of more tropical cyclones.[1] The BoM also thought that their self defined Western and Eastern regions, would both have a 57% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than normal developing.[1] Their northern region and northwestern subregion would also see fewer tropical cyclones than normal, with only a 36% and 39% chance of more tropical cyclones than average.[1] The BoM also issued two seasonal forecasts for their self-defined eastern and western regions of the South Pacific Ocean.[3] They predicted that the Western region between 142.5°E and 165°E, had a 54% chance of seeing activity above its average of 4 tropical cyclones. The BoM also predicted that the Eastern Region between 165°E and 120°W, had a 41% chance of seeing activity above its average of 7 tropical cyclones.[3]

The outlooks accounted for the effects of various major Australian climate drivers, namely the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). The BOM noted that sea surface temperature anomalies across the equatorial Pacific Ocean had been characteristic of a neutral ENSO phase since April. The international climate models utilised by the BOM also indicated that the neutral conditions would likely persist until at least February.[1] A neutral ENSO phase typically has little influence on the Australian climate.[4] Warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central and western tropical Indian Ocean and cooler waters near Indonesia and northern Australia, indicating a positive IOD phase, had also persisted since May.[5] The temperature difference increased throughout the year, and at the beginning of October, the BOM noted that the sea surface temperature anomaly of +1.76 °C was the highest observed value on record (since 2001).[6] The anomaly continued to increase rapidly after this, with the value reaching +2.15 °C a fortnight later.[4] The record-strength positive IOD contributed to the development of a region of higher than normal atmospheric pressure across northern Australia during September, after having remained near neutral throughout winter. The BOM noted that these factors also contributed to the tropical cyclone season outlook.[1]

Season summaryEdit

Tropical cyclone scales#Comparisons across basins 

The season had an unusually late start with the first system, Blake, forming in early January, well after the official start of the season. Blake would later make landfall in northwestern Australia and soon degenerate afterwards. At the same time, Claudia, another tropical cyclone, formed. It persisted for two weeks and reached category 3 on the Australian tropical cyclone scale before dissipating east of Australia. Later that month, a tropical low formed and lasted for a week before dissipating in late January without been named. Three other tropical lows formed in late January and early February. One of them dissipated later. Another one of them has been moving in and out of the Australian region. It was designated 06F by the Fiji Meteorological Service. The third one intensified into Cyclone Damien.

SystemsEdit

Tropical Cyclone BlakeEdit

Category 1 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration4 January – 11 January
Peak intensity75 km/h (45 mph) (10-min)  986 hPa (mbar)

During 4 January, the BOM reported that Tropical Low 02U had started to develop within a monsoon trough, about 750 km (465 mi) north-northwest of Broome.[7] Citing considerable rotation extending into the mid troposphere, well-established dual-channel outflow and warm sea surface temperatures, the JTWC assessed the system as having a moderate chance of attaining tropical cyclone intensity within the following 24 hours.[8] The system gradually gathered strength in the favourable environment as it tracked slowly towards the south-southwest,[9] leading the JTWC to issue a tropical cyclone formation alert at 03:30 UTC the following day.[10] The BOM indicated that sustained gale-force winds had developed on the western side of the tropical low at 15:00 UTC,[11] and the system was designated as Tropical Cyclone 06S by the JTWC a few hours later.[12] Gales fully encircled the system by 00:00 UTC on 6 January, prompting the BOM to upgrade the low to a Category 1 tropical cyclone on the Australian scale, the first of the season. The system was given the official name Blake by the BOM.[13] Blake began to intensify steadily after being upgraded into a tropical cyclone, attaining 10-minute sustained winds of 75 km/h (45 mph) and one-minute sustained winds of 95 km/h (60 mph) within a few hours.[14][15] Soon afterwards, however, the system's development stalled due to land interaction with the nearby coastline of Western Australia.[15] The cyclone made landfall on Dampier Peninsula just before 09:00 UTC, approximately 85 km (55 mi) north of Broome.[16] Blake turned to the southwest and re-emerged over the Indian Ocean at 15:00 UTC; however, the system's structure had deteriorated significantly while the centre was over land.[17][18] As the weakened cyclone continued over water towards the southwest, paralleling the coastline, low vertical wind shear allowed an area of deep convection to gradually redevelop over the system on 7 January.[19] Blake made its final landfall just to the west of the Wallal Downs cattle station on Eighty Mile Beach at approximately 17:00 UTC at minimal Category 1 intensity. Within an hour of crossing the coast, the system weakened to a tropical low.[20] The JTWC discontinued advisories at 00:00 UTC on 8 January as the system moved farther inland;[21] however, the system maintained tropical storm intensity until 12 hours later.

Severe Tropical Cyclone ClaudiaEdit

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 1 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Duration4 January – 17 January
Peak intensity140 km/h (85 mph) (10-min)  969 hPa (mbar)

On 4 January, the BOM noted the formation of a weak tropical low over Indonesia's Maluku Islands.[22] In the ensuing days, the tropical low tracked slowly southeastwards across the Arafura Sea, towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. Significant development was hampered by strong vertical wind shear; however, very warm sea surface temperatures of up to 32 °C (90 °F) allowed the low to gradually increase in organisation.[23] On 7 January, shortly after the low passed near Cape Wessel in the Northern Territory, the BOM published their first forecast track map for the system, and issued a tropical cyclone watch for the northern coastline of Arnhem Land.[24] On the next day, the JTWC issued a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert on the system as it began to organize just northwest of the Gove Peninsula.[25] As the system remained disorganized, the JTWC cancelled the first tropical cyclone formation alert, but later issued another one on January 10 as it re-organized itself, following land interaction with the Top End.[citation needed]. It was later upgraded to a tropical cyclone by the BOM as it was northeast of Kalumburu, receiving the name Claudia on January 11.[26] On the next day, the system was upgraded to a category 2 tropical cyclone. Several hours later, following a decrease in wind shear, Claudia's structure quickly improved, with the storm acquiring hurricane-force winds. It was then upgraded by the BOM to a severe tropical cyclone, during this intensification spell.[27]

The storm continued intensifying, indicated by an improvement of the storm's structure over the proceeding hours. The storm eventually reached its peak intensity with 1-minute sustained winds of 90 mph (150 km/h) and 969 millibars with a small, ragged eye forming on microwave imagery on January 13. Despite this, a decrease in sea surface temperatures as it quickly accelerated eastwards caused the storm to rapidly weaken throughout January 14, indicated by a loss of deep convection near the storm's center. The next evening on January 15, the BOM issued their last advisory on Claudia as it began to weaken.[28] Claudia dissipated as a tropical low on 17 January.[29]

When the system was still a tropical low on 10 January, portions of the Top End received unusually large amounts of rainfall due to the system's slow movement. Darwin received 45 mm (1.7 inches) of rain, Noonamah received 56 mm (2.2 inches of rain, Pirlangimpi received 80.8 mm (3.1 inches) of rain, Charles Point received 151 mm (5.9 inches) of rain, and Dum In Mirrie Island received a staggering 410 mm (16.1 inches) of rain as a result of the system.[30]

Tropical LowEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
Tropical depression (SSHWS)
Duration23 January – 30 January
Peak intensityWinds not specified  998 hPa (mbar)

On 24 January, the BOM noted that a weak tropical low had formed inland over the northeastern Northern Territory, near Cresswell Downs. Embedded in a low-pressure trough stretching across northern Australia and into the South Pacific Ocean, the tropical low remained slow-moving over the ensuing days.[31] After meandering just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria, the system moved offshore at about 12:00 UTC on 27 January, just to the southeast of Mornington Island.[32] This allowed atmospheric convection to develop, and the central atmospheric pressure deepened to 998 hPa (29.47 inHg) at 18:00 UTC.[33] The system's period over water proved short-lived, however, and the tropical low moved into the Gulf Country of northern Queensland a few hours later.[34] On 29 January, the tropical low began to track rapidly southwestwards towards central Australia,[35] causing the system's convection to degrade due to interaction with the dry Australian outback. The tropical low dissipated near Alice Springs in the southern Northern Territory the following day.

Persisting thunderstorms associated with the low brought long-lived heavy rainfall throughout much of Gulf Country in northern Queensland, due to the storm's abnormally slow movement. The town of Townsville received over 320 mm (12 inches) of rain, breaking the previous daily rainfall record in the town of 190 mm (7 inches). An apartment building was reported to have "severely flooded" near the same town.[36] A peak 475 mm (18.7 inches) rainfall total was recorded at the Ayr DPI Research Station in northern Queensland, as a result of the low.[37]

Tropical LowEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
  
Duration31 January – 4 February
Peak intensityWinds not specified  1007 hPa (mbar)

A weak tropical low began to develop over the eastern Indian Ocean within a low-pressure trough on 31 January, approximately 460 km (285 mi) east-northeast of the Cocos Islands and 500 km (310 mi) west of Christmas Island.[38] The system tracked slowly towards the south-southwest over the following days with little development.[39] The system began to gradually decay as it neared the Cocos Islands, and it dissipated as a tropical low by February 4th.[40]

Increased winds were observed in the vicinity of the tropical low in the Cocos Islands, with a maximum wind gust of 44 km/h (27 mph) recorded at the local airport at 01:29 UTC on 2 February.[41] In addition, 28.8 mm (1.1 in) of rainfall fell on Christmas Island from 31 January to 2 February on the eastern side of the tropical low.[42]

Severe Tropical Cyclone DamienEdit

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 2 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Duration2 February – 11 February
Peak intensity150 km/h (90 mph) (10-min)  955 hPa (mbar)

As a monsoon trough began to develop over parts of central northern Australia on 2 February 2020, the BOM noted that an inland tropical low had formed over the Northern Territory, within the monsoon trough.[43] On 4 February, it emerged over the eastern Indian Ocean, and the JTWC labelled the system as Invest 92S. A tropical cyclone formation alert was promptly issued early the following day by the JTWC as convection began to steadily develop near the centre.[44] The next day, the JTWC issued its first advisory on the system as a tropical storm. Several hours later, the BOM followed suit, upgrading the storm to a Category 1 tropical cyclone and giving it the name Damien.

In preparation for Damien, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a red alert from Whim Creek to Mardie stretching south to Millstream, and a yellow alert from Port Hedland to Whim Creek extending southwards to Wittenoom. Evacuation centres were set up in Karratha and South Hedland. An urban search and rescue team was also stationed in Port Hedland.[45] Damien brought gale-force winds, torrential rain, and floods to Western Australia when it made landfall near Karratha on 8 February. Wind gusts exceeding 205 km/h (125 mph) were recorded near the landfall point. Over 230 mm (9.1 in) of rain fell in Karratha and Roebourne from 8–9 February.[46] The Department of Fire and Emergency Services received more than 100 calls for assistance.[47] Around 9,500 customers in the Pilbara region lost power. Besides downing power lines, strong winds also toppled several trees and caused some buildings to lose their roofs.[48] Karratha Airport was forced to close on the morning of February 10 after the terminal sustained damage and lost power; the airport reopened in the afternoon.[49]

Tropical Low UesiEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
Subtropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration3 February – 15 February (Exited basin)
(Out of basin on 5–13 February)
Peak intensity95 km/h (60 mph) (10-min)  977 hPa (mbar)

On 26 January, a low-pressure system formed to the east of the Solomon Islands, centered within a very long low-pressure trough stretching from Western Australia to the central South Pacific Ocean.[50][51] The low-pressure system tracked generally towards the west over the following days, moving into the Australian region from the South Pacific basin on 27 January.[52] On 3 February, a few days after the low-pressure trough had evolved into a monsoon trough,[53] the BOM noted that the low-pressure system had developed into a tropical low.[54] At the time, the atmospheric environment was assessed as being unfavourable for tropical cyclogenesis; however, the BOM indicated that conditions were likely to become more conducive over the following week.[54] The system moved eastwards onto the boundary of the region—the 160th meridian east—at approximately 06:00 UTC on 4 February,[55] before returning to the Australian region proper later that day.[56] By 06:00 UTC on 5 February, however, the system had moved eastwards out of the Australian region once again.[57] The system later intensified into a tropical cyclone while tracking southwards in the South Pacific basin, and was named Uesi by the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS). Uesi reached peak intensity as a Category 3 severe tropical cyclone to the northwest of New Caledonia.

After beginning to weaken on 12 February, the FMS passed official responsibility for Uesi back to the BOM at 12:00 UTC, despite the system still being located in the South Pacific basin.[58] At this time, Uesi adopted a south-southwestwards track towards the Australian region, and began to experience an increase in northwesterly vertical wind shear.[58] The cyclone's convective structure rapidly deteriorated in the increasingly hostile environment, and Uesi's low-level circulation centre soon became exposed from the central dense overcast.[59] However, despite the decreasing sea surface temperatures and the effects of wind shear and strong upper-level winds, Uesi maintained strong winds in its low-level core.[60] At 00:00 UTC on 13 February, the tropical cyclone commenced extratropical transition while approaching the Australian region, and was downgraded to a storm-force tropical low.[60][61] Ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi re-entered the Australian region just before 15:00 UTC with sustained winds of 95 km/h (60 mph) and a central barometric pressure of 979 hPa (28.91 inHg).[62][63]

The BOM issued a tropical cyclone warning for Australian Tasman Sea territory of Lord Howe Island at 06:00 UTC on 12 February in anticipation of Uesi generating destructive winds while passing nearby.[64] A BOM forecaster noted that the island could conceivably experience winds of up to 155 km/h (96 mph) in association with the system, a fact he described as "quite extraordinary", given that winds of 120 km/h (75 mph) are only observed on the island once every ten years on average.[65] The system made its closest approach to the island at 18:00 UTC on 13 February, passing just 20 km (10 mi) to the southeast as a storm-force extratropical cyclone.[66] A few hours prior, a maximum wind gust of 154 km/h (96 mph) was observed at Windy Point and a gust of 124 km/h (77 mph) was recorded at Lord Howe Island Airport.[67][68] Minor damage to buildings and vegetation was reported across the island; however, no substantial losses were incurred.[69] As Uesi tracked further south, the BOM cancelled the tropical cyclone warning for the island at 06:00 UTC on 14 February.[70] Uesi generated powerful waves and swells along the coast of southeastern Australia while tracking through the Tasman Sea, with hazardous surf warnings issued by the BOM for beaches along the entire New South Wales coast, as well as for the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island in Queensland.[71][72] On 15 February, a man drowned and a woman was hospitalised with laceration injuries after they were overcome by the dangerous surf conditions at Bondi Beach in Sydney.[73] Ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi exited the Australian region on 15 February.[74]

Tropical LowEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
  
Duration6 February – 8 February
Peak intensityWinds not specified  1007 hPa (mbar)

Late on 6 February, the BOM noted that a tropical low had developed within a low-pressure trough near the Australian region's western border, approximately 200 km (125 mi) west of the Cocos Islands.[75] The tropical low remained nearly stationary over the central Indian Ocean for the next few days with little development,[76] before dissipating late on 8 February.[77]

The Cocos Islands received 34.4 mm (1.4 in) of rainfall during the 48 hours to 03:00 UTC on 8 February when the tropical low was located nearby, as well as a maximum wind gust to 39 km/h (24 mph) at 01:44 UTC on 8 February.[78][79] An extended rainfall total of 108.0 mm (4.3 in) was recorded on the islands during the five days to 03:00 UTC on 10 February as a result of the slow-moving low-pressure system and its associated trough.[78]

Tropical LowEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
Duration13 February – 13 February
(Exited basin)
Peak intensityWinds not specified  1009 hPa (mbar)

The BOM indicated that a tropical low had developed on the western border of the Australian region over the central Indian Ocean at 06:00 UTC on 13 February.[80] The tropical low was located in a concentrated area of convection being enhanced by the monsoon trough established across the South-West Indian Ocean cyclone region.[81] Within twelve hours, the tropical had moved westwards out of the Australian region,[82] where Météo-France's office on La Réunion assessed the system as having a low probability of intensification into a tropical cyclone.[81]

Tropical LowEdit

Tropical low (Australian scale)
  
Duration15 February – 17 February
Peak intensityWinds not specified  1002 hPa (mbar)

In the midst of an active pulse of the Madden–Julian Oscillation over the tropical western Pacific Ocean, the BOM noted that a tropical low had formed within a low-pressure trough over the northeastern Coral Sea on 15 February.[83][84][85] The slow-moving system was assessed as having a very low probability of developing into a tropical cyclone in the short term.[84] The tropical low attained a minimum barometric pressure of 1002 hPa before moving into the South Pacific cyclone region by 17 February.[86]

Storm namesEdit

Bureau of MeteorologyEdit

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology monitors all tropical cyclones within the region, and assigns names to tropical cyclones that form outside of the areas of responsibility of TCWC Jakarta and TCWC Port Moresby. The next 14 names on the naming list are listed below:

  • Blake
  • Claudia
  • Damien
  • Esther (unused)
  • Ferdinand (unused)
  • Gretel (unused)
  • Harold (unused)
  • Imogen (unused)
  • Joshua (unused)
  • Kimi (unused)
  • Lucas (unused)
  • Marian (unused)
  • Niran (unused)
  • Odette (unused)

TCWC JakartaEdit

The tropical cyclone warning centre in Jakarta monitors tropical cyclones from the Equator to 11°S and between the longitudes 90°E and 145°E. If a tropical depression reach tropical cyclone strength within TCWC Jakarta's area of responsibility, it will be assigned the next name from the following list:[87][88]

  • Mangga (unused)
  • Seroja (unused)
  • Teratai (unused)
  • Anggrek (unused)
  • Bakung (unused)
  • Cempaka (unused)
  • Dahlia (unused)
  • Flamboyan (unused)

TCWC Port MoresbyEdit

Tropical cyclones that develop between the Equator and 11°S, between 151°E and 160°E, are assigned names by the tropical cyclone warning centre in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Tropical cyclone formation in this area is rare, and no cyclones have been named in it since 2007.[89] As names are assigned in a random order the whole list is shown below:

  • Alu (unused)
  • Buri (unused)
  • Dodo (unused)
  • Emau (unused)
  • Fere (unused)
  • Hibu (unused)
  • Ila (unused)
  • Kama (unused)
  • Lobu (unused)
  • Maila (unused)

OthersEdit

If a tropical cyclone enters the Australian region from the South Pacific basin (east of 160°E), it will retain the name assigned to it by the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) or MetService. Similarly, if a tropical cyclone enters the Australian region from the South-West Indian Ocean cyclone region (west of 90°E), it will retain the name assigned to it on behalf of Météo-France La Réunion by the Sub-Regional Tropical Cyclone Advisory Centres in Mauritius or Madagascar. This season, the following systems were named in this manner:

  • Uesi (named by FMS)

Season effectsEdit

2019–20 Australian region cyclone season
Name Dates Peak intensity Areas affected Damage
(US$)
Deaths
Category Wind speed
(km/h (mph))
Pressure
(hPa)
Blake 4–11 Jan. Category 1 tropical cyclone 75 (45) 986 Western Australia Minor 0
Claudia 4–17 Jan. Category 3 severe tropical cyclone 140 (85) 969 Eastern Indonesia, Top End, Kimberley None 0
TL 23–30 Jan. Tropical low Not specified 998 Northern Territory, Queensland None 0
TL 31 Jan.–4 Feb. Tropical low Not specified 1007 Cocos Islands, Christmas Island None 0
Damien 2–11 Feb. Category 3 severe tropical cyclone 150 (90) 955 Northern Territory, Western Australia Moderate 0
Uesi 3–15 Feb. Tropical low 95 (60) 977 Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia,
Lord Howe Island, South East Queensland,
New South Wales, New Zealand
Moderate 1 [73]
TL 6–8 Feb. Tropical low Not specified 1007 Cocos Islands None 0
TL 13 Feb. Tropical low Not specified 1009 None None 0
TL 15–17 Feb. Tropical low Not specified 1002 Solomon Islands None 0
Season aggregates
9 systems 4 Jan.–Present 150 (90) 955 None 1

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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