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Climate change could cause cyclones to hit south: expert

By Mark Beale

CLIMATE change could start bringing more cyclones to southern areas of Queensland, a researcher says.

Melbourne University’s tropical meteorology expert Kevin Walsh said Cyclone Marcia was unusual because it was a category five when it crossed the coast further south than usual.

“Up in far north Queensland is where the category five storms tend to hang out,” Associate Professor Walsh said.

“It was unusual it was a category five and it struck the coast quite far south.”

He said it was possible more cyclones could hit southern areas because of the effects of climate change.

Assoc Prof Walsh said research had suggested the latitude for the maximum intensity of tropical cyclones was moving towards the poles, and in Australia’s case, the south pole.

“So there is a possibility that in the future tropical cyclones could have a tendency to more pole-ward,” Mr Walsh said.

While it was harder to predict how far south cyclones could venture in Australian regions, he said it was a possibility for southern areas to be hit in the future.

A researcher from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote a report published last year on the migration of tropical cyclones.

The report, “The pole-ward migration of the location of tropical cyclone maximum intensity”, stated cyclones in the southern hemisphere were trending 62km per decade towards the south pole.

The researcher found the trends showed a global-average migration of tropical cyclone activity away from the tropics at a rate of about one degree of latitude each decade.

Assoc Prof Walsh said another factor to consider was how the tropics were expected to expand with climate change.

Cyclones thrived on warm ocean water and cloud cover lasting for days, which is why cyclones were more likely to develop in monsoon seasons, he said.

“The moving pole-ward is consistent with the idea of general expansion of the tropics, which is one of the predictions of climate change,” Assoc Prof Walsh said.

The Bureau of Meteorology on Wednesday published preliminary information gathered on Tropical Cyclone Marcia.

Wind gusts of up to 156kmh were recorded in Yeppoon, and reduced to 113kmh when it hit Rockhampton.


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