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Review of tropical cyclones in the Australian region: Climatology, variability, predictability, and trends

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Abstract Tropical cyclones (TCs) can have severe impacts on Australia. These include extreme rainfall and winds, and coastal hazards such as destructive waves, storm surges, estuarine flooding, and coastal erosion. Various aspects of TCs in the Australian region have been documented over the past several decades. In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on human‐induced climate change effects on TCs in the Australian region and elsewhere around the globe. However, large natural variability and the lack of consistent long‐term TC observations have often complicated the detection and attribution of TC trends. Efforts have been made to improve TC records for Australia over the past decades, but it is still unclear whether such records are sufficient to provide better understanding of the impacts of natural climate variability and climate change. It is important to note that the damage costs associated with tropical cyclones in Australia have increased in recent decades and will continue to increase due to growing coastal settlement and infrastructure development. Therefore, it is critical that any coastal infrastructure planning and engineering decisions, as well as disaster management decisions, strongly consider future risks from tropical cyclones. A better understanding of tropical cyclones in a changing climate will provide key insights that can help mitigate impacts of tropical cyclones on vulnerable communities. An objective assessment of the Australian TCs at regional scale and its link with climate variability and change using improved and up‐to‐date data records is more imperative now than before. This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Modern Climate Change
The Australian region and its three basins. Also shown are tropical cyclone (TC) tracks over the period 1981/1982 to 2016/2017 seasons. Colors indicate different TC intensities for different categories of cyclones based on the Australian classification scheme defined in Table . TC track data are those from the Bureau of Meteorology database (Bureau of Meteorology, )
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Time series of various TC characteristics for the Australian region and its three basins over the period 1981/1982 to 2016/2017, and their respective linear trends. Solid (dashed) trend lines indicate statistical significance at the 95% (90%) levels; dotted trend lines are not statistically significant
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(a) Year‐to‐year variability of the seasonal number of Australian tropical cyclones (TCs) (blue) and severe TCs (red), and average number of TCs per decade in 1° × 1° grid boxes for (b) all‐year‐climatology over the Australian region, as well as for (c) El Niño, (d) neutral, and (e) La Niña events in the Southern Hemisphere over the period 1981/1982 to 2016/2017 cyclone seasons. IBTrACS TC data were used to construct these figures, and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) classification is based on Niño 3.4 SST anomalies >0.5°C for El Niño and <−0.5°C for La Niña using September to February averages. Asterisks in (a) denote El Niño years while plus signs denote La Niña years; unmarked years are ENSO neutral
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Polar plots for each 10° × 10° boxes for the Australian region, showing the relative proportion of translational tropical cyclone (TC) tracks in eight different directions (length of fans). These directional distributions are based on six‐hourly TC data. The distribution of TC translation speed is also shown for each direction, from slow (blue) to fast (red), as shown in the legend. The numbers listed for each 10° × 10° box represent the number of 6 hr TC occurrences at each location during the study period, with the color of the numbers showing regions where TCs are intensifying (red) or dissipating (blue) on average. The width of the fan also indicates the relative number of TCs in that grid box compared to the entire region. The black and white arrows represent the mean vector direction and magnitude of the TC movement (Reprinted with permission from Lavender and Dowdy (). Copyright 2016 American Geophysical Union)
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(a) Spatial locations of tropical cyclone (TC) origins (blue), location of achievement of lowest central pressure (orange) and the termination locations (gray), shown for systems declared as TCs in the Australian region for at least some of their lifetime. (b) Locations of TCs that achieved severe (red) and nonsevere (black) status upon landfall. (c) Mean seasonal distribution of TC numbers for the period 1960–1989 (gray) and 1980–2010 (black)
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Australian region tropical cyclone (TC) frequency indicating the potential influences of monitoring methods and technologies on the best track database since 1900
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