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Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, which hit North Queensland last week, was one of the more intense cyclones in Australia's recent history.
A massive category 5 storm over 600 kilometres wide, it clocked wind speeds of 295 kilometres per hour at its greatest intensity.
But it was no super-cyclone, nor was it the biggest cyclone Australia has ever seen, says Dr Jeff Kepert, head of the High Impact Weather Research Team in the Bureau of Meteorology.
Professor Jonathan Nott from the Australasian Palaeohazards Research Unit with James Cook University agrees. Nott says there's no formal definition for the term super cyclone and only uses it very loosely to describe an extremely powerful event with intensities below 910 hectopascals, a measure of atmospheric pressure. Its 350 kilometre per hour winds killed over 400 people, the largest death toll in any natural disaster in Australian history. Cyclones are an annual event across the Australian tropics, but some years are worse than others due to seasonal weather patterns. According to Kepert, Australia has more cyclones during La Niña weather patterns because of warmer sea surface temperatures, however this won't increase storm intensity. Other contributing factors can help generate cyclones including a surge in easterly trade winds which could increase cyclonic rotation, he says.
Queensland goes through periods of intense cyclones following relatively quiet times lasting one or two centuries, says Nott. Using these techniques, Nott and colleagues have found that cyclones with winds of up to 300kmh cross the Queensland coast every 200 or 300 years. Even so, research and associated critical commentary stand on their own merits and relevance to the data and commentary at hand; not on the established merits, status or position, relevance or lack thereof, of the author.
At last some common sense about what happens and why from someone who is a real expert in the field rather than the self promoting media hexperts we normally get who cast a spell of deniable plausibility over everything they say. Oh dear, I'm afraid this article will be used to dispute the effects of AGW and further the smear against our science organisations. Hi Carolus, While I am not convinced about AGW, this article cannot be used to disprove AGW, a point I got from it is how some people who jumped on the AGW bandwagon, claiming the cyclone was a direct result of AGW, were basically wrong to do so. I am interested in the history of Yasi.By its name it originated in 2010, so how long did it have before it became the threat that it was to FNQBut by what date was it recognised to be a possible cyclone to be given the name name Yasi?Where was it when it was named as Yasi?Were the later weather patterns further south and west as her in Canberra affected by it?


I believe, Hayward, but I'm not 100% certain, that cyclones that originate overseas, as Yasi did, do not follow the same naming conventions as here in Australia. Tracey was a tiny cat 4 - BoM numbers not tales: the reason it caused such severe building damage was not high wind speed it was old low standard buildings - same as Tully in Yasi.
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The Western Australian coast and the Northern Territory tend to have more intense cyclones than Queensland, but Larry was a category 5 at sea before weakening to category 4 as it made landfall," says Kepert. Sand deposits going back five thousand years (the period sea levels have been at current heights) tell us how big and where a cyclone hit, based on the amount of sand left above the highest tides. Yasi was a very large cyclone in its lateral extent but winds were not 'clocked' at 295 kph. I contend that the ABC is as guilty as the commercial media in hyping up the strength of the cyclone. Tully had much lower wind speeds than Mission Beach but was trashed because it had sub standard houses and has had no significant cyclones for over 100 years whereas MB had Winifred(cat 3 1986) Larry (cat 4 2005) then Yasi so its buildings were mostly built to modern building codes. As a professor of economics it's his peer role to model economic impact based on the work of his peer reviewed science colleagues.
People such as Bob Brown pounced on the cyclones as if they had never happened before and tried to make us believe it was from AGW. That position doesn't discount the merit of what he's saying, climatologists in no position to estimate economic impact without research and collaboration. Many bloggers on this site immediately accepted these false assertions, even ridiculing those who did not believe it.The thing this article does is show us that we have had cyclones as bad in the past and 'cyclones with winds of up to 300kmh cross the Queensland coast every 200 or 300 years' according to the methods the authors used to gather information. There is a lot of fantasy about cyclones - we were in Larry and Yasi on a hillside right beside the beach and Yasi was a scarier than Larry but the 1918 MB-Innisfail cyclone was almost certainly stronger.
Whilst the media may well like to beat things up, taking the opposing minimalist position isn't automatically the more considered one either, nor quoting someone second and third hand. So the claims of worse, more frequent storms at this point in time, are shown to be without foundation but that's all. Looking at the BOM Townsville radar (with the wind speed measurements turned on) around midnight as the cyclone crossed the coast confirmed the Cat 3 impression.None of this detracts from the consistently excellent work of the Premier, Mayors and EMQ generally.


As has been said in comments, the BoM will need some time to confirm how fast the wind speeds actually were when Yasi struck the coast.
Energy in is greater than energy out, enhanced greenhouse warming is human increase of that difference, which is measured as increasing over time.
A large Cat 3 is a very dangerous beast and to have almost no loss of life reflects the greatest credit all round.The one blot on the event was the deplorable Prof Garnaut trying, with every ounce of his economist's meteorological expertise, to attribute this event to 'global warming'.
Nevertheless, the media in general were happy to paint the worst possible picture of the intensity of this cyclone, to what purpose one wonders? Unless there is some fundamental new principle of thermodynamics which nobody is speaking of, the system must respond. That climatological expert, Professor Garnaut, may offer a clue in that he has more or less said - I told you so, the climate modellers have predicted that weather events will become more extreme with global warming induced by human activities. Measurements are reported to confirm that that is the case, and the presence and continuance of other influences, present no evidence to contradict that. CSIRO and BOM produced a recent report to Government which said that 'climate change' would bring more severe drought to SE Australia.
This is done without reference to the historical record, which by various means, can be extended back some 5000 years or so during which time very intense cyclones such as Yasi have battered the tropical coastline of northern Australia. He seems to be saying that these are the types of events that scientifically peer reviewed research expects to find more frequently; the research based upon which he is responsible to perform his economic modelling. If researchers, be they scientific, or economists working with them, must abandon the professional peer review of evidence standard, in favour of standard of mathematical proof for purpose of social and political convenience, the proverbial house and the whole street will lay in ruins before we agree that the smoke detector did indeed indicate a fire and not just burnt toast.
If we're to wait until the whole world believes that we should do something, then we might be waiting for long beyond scientific consensus, still working on the 6 thousand year old earth theory, acceptance of cosmology and Darwinism. Indeed, as an economist, he may well be an expert on climate in the application of climate data to economic impact.



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