|Cyclone Larry (at right) at landfall. Source: Bureau of Meteorology|
One of the most powerful cyclones to hit Australia in decades blasted ashore near Cairns, Queensland, with winds of up to 290 km/hr (180 mph). Larry flattened sugarcane fields and banana crops, ripped roofs off houses and uprooted trees in a 300km-wide swath (186 miles).
About half the houses in the town Innisfail have been damaged, according to emergency services, and millions of dollars worth of sugar cane and banana crops have been destroyed. The area is the heart of Australia’s banana industry and also accounts for 25% of Australia’s sugar cane production.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the constant rain is raising concerns about disease outbreaks including dengue fever and hepatitis because many areas remain without power, running water or sewerage.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said Larry was similar in size to Cyclone Tracy, which killed 71 people and destroyed about 70 percent of the northern city of Darwin in 1974.
The Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre in Brisbane is already monitoring Cyclone Wati, currently at category two strength. The storm, still to the east of Cairns, appears to be taking a similar track to that of Larry.
Hurricane Season for the US does not officially begin for another two and one-half months, but Accuweather just forecast that the northeast US coast could be the target of a major hurricane, perhaps as early as this season.
The forecast suggests that in terms of number of storms, the 2006 hurricane season will be more active than normal, but less active than last summer’s historic storm season.
The Northeast is staring down the barrel of a gun. The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane, and with the weather patterns and hydrology we’re seeing in the oceans, the likelihood of a major hurricane making landfall in the Northeast is not a question of if but when.—Joe Bastardi, Chief Forecaster
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center research meteorologists have identified weather cycles that indicate which US coastal areas are most susceptible to landfalls.
Determination of where we are in the cycle has enabled AccuWeather.com meteorologists to accurately predict hurricane activity in Florida in 2004 and along the Gulf Coast last year. There are indications that the Northeast will experience a hurricane larger and more powerful than anything that region has seen in a long time.—Ken Reeves, Expert Senior Meteorologist and Director of Forecasting Operations
In a paper published last Friday online in Science, researchers Georgia Tech applied a new methodology to the analysis of global hurricane data and concluded that the increasing trend in the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970 to 2004 is directly linked to the trend in rising sea surface temperatures (SST).
...other aspects of the tropical environment, while influencing shorter term variations in hurricane intensity, do not contribute substantially to the observed global trend.
A discussion of the results of this paper and supporting and dissenting views on the conclusion is available here on RealClimate.
“Deconvolution of the Factors Contributing to the Increase in Global Hurricane Intensity”; Carlos D. Hoyos, Paula A. Agudelo, Peter J. Webster, Judith A. Curry; Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1123560