1978–79 Australian region cyclone season

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1978–79 Australian region cyclone season
1978-1979 Australian cyclone season summary.jpg
Season summary map
Seasonal boundaries
First system formed 19 November 1978
Last system dissipated 12 May 1979
Strongest storm
Name Hazel
 • Maximum winds 220 km/h (140 mph)
(10-minute sustained)
 • Lowest pressure 935 hPa (mbar)
Seasonal statistics
Tropical lows 13
Tropical cyclones 12
Severe tropical cyclones 5
Total fatalities 17
Total damage $30 million (1979 USD)
Related articles
Australian region tropical cyclone seasons
1976–77, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1980–81

The 1978–79 Australian region cyclone season was the only season in which a reconnaissance aircraft flew into a tropical cyclones. Operationally, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) tracked eleven tropical cyclones, while two additional systems were later added to the United States's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) best track. Prior to 1985, the Australian region basin was defined as in the southern hemisphere between 80°E and 160°E, with the modern day season boundaries ranging from 1 November to 30 April of the following year. The first storm, an unnamed system, developed on 19 November 1978. The final cyclone, Kevin, dissipated by 12 May 1979. Tropical cyclones in this area were monitored by three Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWCs): the BOM in Perth, Darwin, and Brisbane.[1]

Tropical cyclogenesis in the season began when an unnamed tropical cyclone developed well west of Australia on 19 November and lasted until 23 November after moving in a generally southward direction throughout much of its duration. Cyclone Peter developed over the Gulf of Carpentaria on 29 December. During and in the few days after landfall in Queensland on 31 December, the storm produced heavy precipitation in the state and became the rainiest tropical cyclone in Australia. Severe flooding occurred in the Cairns area, leaving two fatalities and about $10 million in damage. Gordon became the first system to enter from another basin, entering from the South Pacific on 9 January. The storm dissipated shortly after striking Queensland on 12 January, bringing rainfall and rough seas.

Cyclone Kerry remained in the Australian region from 12 February to 3 March, making it the longest-lived tropical cyclone in the basin on record. Hazel was the most intense tropical cyclone of the season, peaking as a Category 5 on the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale. The storm brought rough seas and strong winds to Western Australia, resulting in $20 million in damage and 15 deaths after a fishing boat capsized. None of the subsequent tropical cyclones significantly effected land. Tropical cyclogenesis concluded with the formation of Kevin on 2 May, which dissipated on 12 May. Overall, the tropical cyclones of this season collectively caused 17 deaths and over $30 million in damage.

Season summary[edit]

Tropical cyclone scales#Comparisons across basins
Cyclone Peter over Queensland on 3 January 1979

Under the modern day boundaries, a season lasts from 1 November to 30 April of the following year, while a tropical cyclone year is defined as from 1 July to 30 June of the next year.[2] Thirteen cyclones entered or formed in the Australian region,[3][4][5] which was equal to the 1970–71 to 2001–02 average of 13 per season.[3] By region, three cyclones developed over the Perth TCWC,[3][4][5] three formed in the Darwin TCWC, and just one originated over the Brisbane area.[3] Thus, seven cyclones developed in the Australian region[3][4][5] – defined as the southern hemisphere between 80°E and 160°E – until Météo-France's Réunion area of responsibility and BOM adjusted the boundary eastward to 90°E in 1985.[6] This was slightly below the 1952–53 to 1970–71 average of eight per season.[3]

There was a total of eleven coastal crossings, which is either a landfall or a tropical cyclone moving from land to sea. This was well above the 1949–50 to 1974–75 average of five per season.[3] This was the first and only season that reconnaissance aircraft flew into cyclones in this basin.[7] A WP-3D Orion operated by the United States's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flew into Cyclone Kerry on three occasions – 21 February, 22 February, and 4 March. Another flight mission was conducted for observing Cyclone Rosa as the storm was making landfall in Northern Territory on 26 February. Overall, the tropical cyclones of this season resulted in 17 deaths and slightly more than $30 million in damage.[3]

Activity began in November 1978, when Tropical Cyclone 01S formed the Australian region in the Perth TCWC area on 18 November.[4] The next cyclone, later designated as 03S, developed about a month later on 20 December.[5] In addition, Peter formed on 29 December. January also featured two more cyclones, Greta and Gordon, the latter of which entered the basin from the South Pacific on 9 January. Likewise, there were two tropical cyclones in the month of February, Rosa and Kerry, both of which existed simultaneously for almost three weeks. Hazel and Ivan originated in March. The former was the most intense tropical cyclone of the season, peaking with 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 220 km/h (140 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 935 mbar (27.6 inHg). April was the most active, with three cyclones originating or entering the basin during that month. The last storm, Kevin existed in May between 2 May and 12 May, after the end of the modern day season, which is 30 April.[3]

Systems[edit]

Cyclone 01S[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
01S Nov 22 1978 0856Z.png 01S 1978 track.png
Duration 19 November – 23 November
Peak intensity 75 km/h (45 mph) (1-min) 

An unnamed cyclone, later designated as 01S, developed about 185 kilometres (115 miles) north of North Keeling on 19 November at 12:00 UTC. After six hours, the storm intensified into a Category 1 cyclone on the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale. The cyclone headed southwestward and intensified further on 20 November, peaking with 1-minute sustain winds of 75 km/h (45 mph) by 06:00 UTC. Early on 21 November, the system curved west-southwestward, before turning on the following day. Thereafter, the storm began weakening and dissipated early on 23 November, while situated about 1,210 km (750 mi) southwest of Cocos Islands.[4]

Cyclone 03S[edit]

Category 1 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHWS)
03S Dec 20 1978 0915Z.png 03S 1978 track.png
Duration 20 December – 24 December (Existed basin)
Peak intensity 85 km/h (55 mph) (10-min) 

Another unnamed cyclone, designated as 03S, developed on 20 December while located about 1,055 km (655 mi) west-northwest of North Keeling. The storm strengthened and became a Category 1 cyclone about twelve hours later. After initially moving east-southeastward, the system re-curved to the west-southwest by 21 December. Further intensification occurred, and by 00:00 UTC on 22 December, the storm peaked with maximum sustained winds of 85 km/h (55 mph). Thereafter, the cyclone slowly weakened and fell to tropical depression intensity on 24 December. Several hours later, the system entered the southwest Indian Ocean basin, where it dissipated on 26 December.[5]

Tropical Cyclone Peter[edit]

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Peter Dec 31 1978 0538Z.png Peter 1978 track.png
Duration 29 December – 4 January
Peak intensity 110 km/h (70 mph) (10-min)  980 hPa (mbar)

A weak low pressure area over the Arafura Sea developed into Cyclone Peter on 29 December. Peter moved southeastward and deepened while brushing Arnhem Land.[3] Initially a tropical low, it strengthened into a Category 1 cyclone by 12:00 UTC on 29 December.[8] Peter intensified further on 30 December and became a Category 2 cyclone. On the following day, the cyclone peaked with maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h (70 mph). Peter weakened to a Category 1 cyclone before making landfall near the mouth of the Edward River in Queensland. While crossing the Cape York Peninsula, the storm weakened slowly. After reaching Pacific Ocean near Cooktown, the storm decelerated and meandered offshore,[9] but dissipated about 105 km (65 mi) north of Cape Melville.[8]

While trekking slowly offshore the east coast of Queensland, the storm dropped very heavy rainfall, peaking at 1,947 millimeters (76.7 inches) at Mount Bellenden Ker, making it the wettest tropical cyclone on record in Australia.[10] Severe flooding occurred, especially in the Cairns area.[3] The most severe damage was dealt to sugar cane, which suffered 70 to 90 percent destruction.[11] Some flights were canceled at the Cairns Airport due to standing water.[12] Floodwaters forced at least 50 people to flee their homes in Cairns.[13] A number of roads, including major highways, were flooded throughout coastal areas of Far North Queensland. Rainfall and winds also resulted in many power and telephone service outages through the region.[12] There were two fatalities and damage reached approximately $10 million.[3]

Tropical Cyclone Greta[edit]

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Greta Jan 10 1979 0537Z.png Greta 1979 track.png
Duration 8 January – 13 January
Peak intensity 95 km/h (60 mph) (10-min)  986 hPa (mbar)

A weak low pressure area associated with the remnants of Peter developed into a tropical disturbance over the Gulf of Carpentaria on 8 January.[14] After six hours, the disturbance intensified into a tropical low, which was named Greta. Moving east-northeast, the system strengthened into a Category 1 cyclone late on 9 January. By 00:00 UTC the next day, Greta became a Category 2 and peaked with maximum sustained winds of 95 km/h (60 mph).[15] A few hours later, the system made landfall to the south of Weipa, Queensland. The city of Weipa recorded a barometric pressure of 986 mbar (29.1 inHg), the lowest in relation to Greta.[14] While traversing the Cape York Peninsula, the cyclone weakened, falling to Category 1 intensity by midday on 10 January.[15]

Eventually, Greta curved southward and briefly moved offshore, before making another landfall near Princess Charlotte Bay early on 11 January.[14] The storm curved west-southwestward and soon weakened to a tropical low. After re-emerging into the Gulf of Carpentaria again on 12 January, Greta almost immediately weakened to a tropical disturbance. The storm then meandered offshore Gulf Country before dissipating around 00:00 UTC on 13 January.[15] Greta brought rainfall to portions of the Cape York Peninsula flooded during the passage of Cyclone Peter, but the former resulted in much less damage than the latter.[14]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gordon[edit]

Category 1 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Gordon Jan 6 1979 1548Z.png Gordon SPac 1979 track.png
Duration 9 January (Entered basin) – 11 January
Peak intensity 75 km/h (45 mph) (10-min)  990 hPa (mbar)

Cyclone Gordon developed over the South Pacific basin on 2 January, where it peaked as a Category 3 cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 130 km/h (80 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 965 mbar (28.5 inHg) on 7 January.[16] However, between 7 January and 8 January, satellite imagery indicated a significant weakening trend.[3] Upon reaching the Australian region early on 9 January, Gordon had deteriorated to a Category 1.[16] Around that time, the cyclone attained its peak intensity while in the basin, with maximum sustained winds of 75 km/h (45 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 990 mbar (29 inHg).[16]

Weakening continued, with Gordon decreasing to a tropical low on 10 January, following by to tropical disturbance intensity on 11 January. Several hours later, Gordon made landfall near Proserpine, Queensland, and promptly dissipated.[16] Some coastal towns in Queensland observed up to 50 millimetres (2.0 in) in a 24‑hour period. However, there was no flood damage. Rough seas and strong winds resulted in some beach erosion.[3]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Rosa[edit]

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 2 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Rosa Feb 25 1979 0600Z.png Rosa 1979 track.png
Duration 12 February – 4 March
Peak intensity 150 km/h (90 mph) (10-min)  955 hPa (mbar)

A persistent cluster of clouds over the South Pacific basin developed into a tropical low, named Rosa, near the Solomon Islands on 12 February. Shortly thereafter, Rosa entered the Australian region. Initially, the system remained weak and moved across the Cape York Peninsula on 16 February. Upon reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria, the storm slowly strengthened and moved in an erratic motion. Early on 26 February, Rosa peaked with maximum sustained winds of 150 km/h (90 mph) and a minimum barometric pressure of 955 mbar (28.2 inHg). A reconnaissance flight into the cyclone recorded winds of 170 km/h (110 mph) at an altitude of 540 m (1,770 ft), while located about 35 km (20 mi) northeast of the eye early on 26 February. The cyclone then made landfall near Bing Bong. Northern Territory, at the same intensity. Rosa moved west-southwestward across Australia and dissipated offshore Western Australia near Exmouth on 4 March.[3]

Observation stations in the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria reported abnormally high tides. At Bing Bong, the water level rose an estimated 2 m (6.6 ft) above the spring high tide mark. On Groote Eylandt island, a tide gauge was washed away. These weather stations suffered thousands of dollars in damage. Trees in extensive tracts of forests were felled, especially in the Roper-McArthur district, which stretches from the Roper to McArthur rivers. On North Island, located within the Sir Edward Pellew Group of Islands, a stranded light aircraft was destroyed.[3]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Kerry[edit]

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 3 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Cyclone Kerry (1979).png Kerry 1979 track.png
Duration 12 February – 5 March
Peak intensity 185 km/h (115 mph) (10-min)  945 hPa (mbar)

Kerry developed over the South Pacific basin from a low pressure are of 12 February. After later striking Makira in the Solomon Islands on 15 February, Kerry reached the Bureau of Meteorology's area of responsibility on 16 February as a Category 2 cyclone. Shortly thereafter, the system became a Category 3 cyclone. Reaching Category 4 on 18 February, the storm peaked with maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph). After peak intensity, the storm began to move erratically, executing multiple cyclonic loops and decelerating between 20 February and 25 February. At that time, Kerry weakened significantly due to dry air, falling to Category 3 on 21 February and Category 2 on 24 February. The storm curved southwestward by 26 February and deteriorated to a Category 1 later that day. Shortly thereafter, Kerry turned westward and began approaching the east coast of Queensland.

Late on 28 February, the cyclone struck the Whitsunday Islands as a Category 1 and later made multiple landfalls on the mainland as a tropical low on 1 March. Kerry curved northward several hours later and re-emerged into the Pacific Ocean. The storm reintensified into a Category 1 on 2 March, before a trough forced the cyclone to curve southeastward. Kerry again weakened while traversing above the Great Barrier Reef and finally dissipated on 5 March. In Queensland, much of the damage occurred in the vicinity of Mackay, where a wind gust of 141 km/h (88 mph) was observed. Twenty-seven homes were damaged, one severely, and a warehouse lost a large section of its roof. Wave heights up to 4.02 m (13.2 ft) in the city caused about $1 million (1979 AUD) in damage to boats at the harbor. On Brampton Island, the resort's staff quarters building was deroofed and many trees were downed throughout the island.

Cyclone Hazel[edit]

Category 5 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 3 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Hazel 1979 track.png
Duration March 6 – March 14
Peak intensity 220 km/h (140 mph) (10-min)  935 hPa (mbar)

Hazel grazed the Western Australia coast on March 13, 1979. Fifteen crewmen drowned when their fishing boat sank during the storm.[17] The storm caused $41 million in damage, among the costliest Western Australian cyclones.[18]

Cyclone Ivan[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Ivan 1979 track.png
Duration March 16 – March 21
Peak intensity 110 km/h (70 mph) (1-min)  988 hPa (mbar)

Ivan existed from 16 March to 21 March.

Cyclone Stan[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Stan 1979 track.png
Duration April 6 – April 15
Peak intensity 75 km/h (45 mph) (1-min)  995 hPa (mbar)

Stan existed from 6 April to 15 April.

Cyclone Idylle[edit]

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Idylle 1979 track.png
Duration April 13 – April 20
Peak intensity 175 km/h (110 mph) (10-min)  945 hPa (mbar)

Idylle hit the Southern Coast of Western Australia.

Cyclone Jane[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Jane 1979 track.png
Duration 9 April – 14 April
Peak intensity 65 km/h (40 mph) (1-min)  988 hPa (mbar)

A tropical disturbance formed about 220 mi (135 mi) west-southwest of Cocos Island early on 8 April.[3] Early on the next day, the disturbance strengthened into a tropical low, which was named Jane.[19] The storm only intensified slightly further and later peaked with a minimum barometric pressure of 988 mbar (29.2 inHg). Jane dissipated by 14 April.

Cyclone Kevin[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Temporary cyclone south.svg Kevin 1979 track.png
Duration May 2 – May 12
Peak intensity 95 km/h (60 mph) (1-min)  986 hPa (mbar)

Kevin existed from 2 May to 12 May. As it churned in open ocean, it took an unusual "zig-zag" path. Kevin did not strengthen much and dissipated out to sea.

See also[edit]

  • Atlantic hurricane seasons: 1978, 1979
  • Eastern Pacific hurricane seasons: 1978, 1979
  • Western Pacific typhoon seasons: 1978, 1979
  • North Indian Ocean cyclone seasons: 1978, 1979

References[edit]

  1. ^ Worldwide Tropical Cyclone Centers. National Hurricane Center (Report). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 9 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Terminologies used in the region of South-West Pacific Ocean. Severe Weather Information Centre (Report). World Meteorological Organization. 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q L. W. Broadbridge (May 1980). The Australian Tropical Cyclone Season 1978–79 (PDF) (Report). Perth, Western Australia: Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 01S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 03S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  6. ^ Philippe Caroff; et al. (June 2011). Operational procedures of TC satellite analysis at RSMC La Reunion (PDF) (Report). World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Severe Tropical Cyclone Kerry (Report). Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  8. ^ a b "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 05S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Tropical Cyclone Peter (Report). Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  10. ^ Climate Education: Flood (Report). Bureau of Meteorology. Archived from the original on 17 March 2009. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Damage to sugar cane 'in millions'". The Canberra Times. Brisbane, Queensland. January 7, 1979. p. 3. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  12. ^ a b "Telephone, roads cut by cyclone". The Canberra Times. Brisbane, Queensland. January 3, 1979. p. 3. Retrieved January 14, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Flooding, food shortages in north Qld". The Canberra Times. Brisbane, Queensland. January 4, 1979. p. 3. Retrieved January 15, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b c d Tropical Cyclone Greta (Report). Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  15. ^ a b c "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 08S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c d "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 06S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2016. 
  17. ^ "Central/South-Western, WA: Cyclone". ema.gov.au. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  18. ^ "Tropical Cyclones in Western Australia – Extremes". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2010. 
  19. ^ "JTWC Best Track for Cyclone 26S". Joint Typhoon Warning Center. 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2016.