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Wild weather on the way

Roadside powerlines above the road between Jubilee Pocket and Shute Harbour were damaged during Cyclone Ului on March 21 this year.
Roadside powerlines above the road between Jubilee Pocket and Shute Harbour were damaged during Cyclone Ului on March 21 this year.

WHITSUNDAY residents can expect more cyclones than usual off the coast this summer if the most recent Southern Oscilliation Index (SOI) reading is anything to go by.

Senior forecaster from the Bureau of Meteorology Peter Otto said the current reading suggested there may be a greater chance of cyclones hitting the region.

“You can expect it's a bit more likely to get a coastal impact this year than past years,” he said.

“In an average year, there tends to be four cyclones (off shore) in the northern Coral Sea region.

“This year the odds are a little higher with up to six predicted.

“This increases the chances of these cyclones hitting the mainland.”

The SOI is a measure of seasonal air pressure fluctuations between Tahiti and Darwin and is a determining factor in projected rainfall predictions for the tropics.

The higher the reading the more chance of rainfall and September's reading stood at 25, which is the highest September reading since 1917 where the reading peaked at 29.7.

The bureau's Queensland climate services manager Jeff Sabburg said that the current reading was very unusual for this time of the year.

“It's very exceptional having such a high SOI especially in September,” he said.

Mr Otto said the increased threat of cyclones hitting the Whitsundays was due to a developing La Nina pattern, resulting in higher sea temperatures and more intense and common easterly winds.

“On the east coast it [the SOI] is quite helpful for forecasting rainfall but it's not the be all and end all,” he said.

“It is fairly high for spring and it is an indicator of La Nina patterns which heats up our waters.

“This is the fuel for cyclones.”

Not only does an increased SOI result in an increased chance of cyclones hitting the Queensland Tropics, it also suggests that we will face increased rainfall, adding to the already unseasoned rains experienced throughout September and October.

“Because of the increase in sea surface temperatures, wetter than average conditions are expected in north Queensland,” Mr Otto said.


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