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'Greater risk' of deadly weather systems hitting Australia this summer

Warmer waters in northern Australia created by the lingering La Nina pattern increases the likelihood of a cyclone forming.

The lasting effects of the county’s third consecutive La Nina weather pattern could turn deadly with forecasters warning of a greater risk of cyclones this summer.

From coast to coast, Australia is under threat from an increased number of potentially devastating systems.

“The warmer than average waters are expected to persist in northern Australia for the next three months,” Yoska Hernandez from Weatherzone told Yahoo News Australia. “And that is what increases the likelihood of tropical cyclones."

A radar off a cyclone off Queensland.
Weatherzone is predicting an increase in cyclones this summer as a result of a lingering La Nina. Source: Getty (Getty Images/Stocktrek Images)

La Nina creates perfect storm for cyclones to form

Each year in Australia, there are on average 11 cyclones. This summer, there is a 73 per cent chance that there’ll be more than usual.

This risk jumps to 74 per cent in the eastern region, where there are on average four cyclones annually, and 79 per cent in the west where about seven cyclones form each year.

Ms Hernandez says the outgoing La Nina has been creating the perfect conditions for cyclones to develop.

“The predictions are that La Nina will linger over northern Australia,” she said. “It will be a weak La Nina but it will linger over the area. When that happens, the waters around northern and northeastern Australia are warmer than average so that can provide more moisture for tropical cyclones to form.”

A sign blown over.
Weatherzone meteorologist Yoska Hernandez said cyclones can bring devastating winds and heavy rain. Source: AAP (AAPIMAGE)

But while Australia is set to see more cyclones than usual, it’s harder to predict how intense they will be.

“Considering that we are in a weak La Nina pattern, the waters in northern and eastern Australia are warmer, but not excessively warmer as we would see with an intense La Nina event,” Ms Hernandez explained. “This could have a sort of moderating effect in the energy that the tropical cyclones can get from the water.

“When you have warmer waters, you have more energy for a potentially destructive tropical cyclone. So in this case I couldn't say that the cyclones would have enough energy to be as destructive.”

The La Nina isn’t expected to move into a neutral phase until the end of summer in March.

A Queensland bridge flooded.
In a major relief for Queensland residents who've been inundated with rain this week, the tropical low in the Coral Sea is now unlikely to develop into a tropical cyclone. Source: Getty (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Cyclone off Queensland called off

Australia has already been hit by two tropical cyclones this summer, with the first striking off Western Australia's coast.

“The first was a category five with winds greater than 200 kilometres per hour but it was offshore so it didn't affect mainland,” Ms Hernandez said. “That tropical cyclone was pretty intense but it was always moving away from the mainland over the Indian ocean.”

The second, Cyclone Ellie, made landfall in the Northern Territory in December as a category one, bringing strong winds and heavy rainfall.

Fortunately a tropical low in the Coral Sea off Far North Queensland, that earlier this week had a high risk of developing into a tropical cyclone by Saturday, is now moving away from the coast.

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