Another extreme Australian hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:45 PM GMT on April 23, 2006

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Australia's hurricane season continues its parade of unusually intense storms this year with the intensification of Cyclone Monica today into a huge Category 5 storm. The 12 GMT advisory this morning from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center put Monica at 165 mph sustained winds and a 892 mb pressure, making it second most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. The most intense Southern Hemisphere cyclone on record was Cyclone Zoe of 2003, which had a 879 mb pressure. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology puts Monica's pressure at 905 mb, which would make it the fifth strongest cyclone on record. Reliable records of cyclone intensity only go back to the mid-1980s in the Southern Hemisphere, but two of top five strongest hurricanes ever recorded there have occurred this year--Tropical Cyclone Glenda (898 mb) from March, and now Monica. What's really extraordinary about Monica is that she came so late in the season--tropical cyclone season is usually over by late April in the Southern Hemisphere. Monica's formation echoes what happened in the Atlantic last year, with the intensification of Hurricane Wilma to a record 882 mb pressure very late in the hurricane season--October 19. When one adds in the $1 billion in devastation wrought in Queensland by Category 4 Cyclone Larry (915 mb) in March, Australians must feel like residents of hurricane alley in the Atlantic did last year, when three of the six strongest hurricanes on record occurred, causing the most damage ever--what's going on with the weather? However, be reminded that the Northern Hemisphere Pacific Ocean had a very below-normal tropical cyclone season last year, and the Indian Ocean also had below normal activity.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image of Cyclone Monica at peak intensity, 165 mph sustained winds and a 892 mb central pressure. Image taken at 7:30 GMT April 23, 2006 by the GMS satellite. Image courtest of the Navy Research Lab

Monica is expected to track just offshore the sparsely populated north coast of Australia today as it moves slowly westward. Darwin, the most heavily populated city in the region, will begin to feel Monica's wind later today, and a direct hit is possible on Tuesday. Monica should slowly weaken before she gets to Darwin, since much of the circulation will be over land, and the eye will have to cross land as well. Still, Monica could still be a formidable Category 3 or 4 hurricane by then, and a direct hit on Darwin would likely cause severe damage.

Jeff Masters

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312. Wicking
2:30 AM GMT on April 27, 2006
Hi people.

I'm a cartoonist who lives and works in Darwin. Stumbled across this site by accident, excellent reading. For anybody interested in knowing what it was like on the ground here during Monica's approach, I kept a cyclone diary on my blog at wickingtoons.blogspot.com

Have to say this thing scared the hell out of us. We've had some big storms in recent years, but none have presented as great a threat to the city as Monica. Luckily, we dodged the bullet this time.

311. SickOfDumbQuestions
7:08 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
I love all the comparisons to the Atlantic/Pacific (right now an Aussie Storm for our friends in OZ).

You can make comparisons in how they look, but the pressure comparisons can't really be done without looking at the background pressure normally in that area. I see people saying that this one was 868 and a World Record. If it is then that would be cool(but not for anyone who get hurt, but in a meterogical sense), but if we "translate" Wilma, over to the Pacific basin, it looks to push that pressure down into the 850's.

Right now it seems as if everyone has to experience the BEST/WORST/Strongest hurricane ever. For the people hit by Katria, I'm sure they want to believe that no storm strong then that will ever exist and nobody will ever live through the hell they did.

Its human nature to want to believe that what we are seeing and living through is the WORST/BEST/RECORD SETTING event. To me this is no different.

In this case I see everyone saying the wind is over 210, which it maybe on radar or on a Dvorak chart, but there hasn't really been a direct sampling of winds as there are on the Atlantic basin.

We really should get something going and fly into every major tropical cyclone we can to learn as much and help make our models more accurate. All I see here is a compact Camielle like storm that we miss out on a great chance to learn from because noone flew into it to really sample the storm. We will never really know the real pressure because someone earlier said it could be + or - 10mb or more from a Sat reading and different sats give different readings.

I will say its a beautiful storm, but I loved the rapid strengthing of Wilma and the pinhole eye was amazing.

-Ryan
310. TheSnowman
2:33 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
Good Piont
309. staC
12:45 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
Its weakening now, cause its over land. Monica made land fall 3 times, twice probably as the most severe hurricane to ever hit land.
308. Ezzz
12:03 PM GMT on April 24, 2006
Yes, Katherine had a 19.8m flood (I think it was either the 2nd or 3rd biggest ever there). So if any substantial amounts fall (100-200mm) over a widespread area in 24 hours, there should be some major rises.
Down here I'm under the threat of 'onshore showers' from a High down south directing a S to SE airstream over us, and will create a damp ANZAC Day for areas between Ulladulla and Brisbane.
307. lemmo
11:57 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Maningrida readings here show the centre moving away, the winds switching around. The centre crossed land 30km to the west according to BoM, so perhaps the fact that the station only recorded max 80 knot gust suggests a weakening?

suggest some weakening, or very concentrated winds at the centre. A lot of rain though. Haven't the areas around Katherine had a lot of rain recently so the ground is saturated, so heavy rain from Monica could be a problem?

New Linkstorm track and intensity models show much more agreement now, for a rapid weakening.
306. rxse7en
11:52 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Good luck to all of our friends in OZ. I will gladly ship back any koalas that get blown this way...or I can send them back via our next hurricane here in Florida.

B
Member Since: August 21, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 530
305. staC
11:38 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
What on earth happened to her? She just shrunk and lost all of her solid eyewall. There is no possible way that the winds were 155 kts at landfall.

What are you looking at that makes you say this?
304. ForecasterColby
11:19 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Official T-# now 7.0
303. ForecasterColby
11:18 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Heh - Masters posted 145kt/892mb as peak intensity ;)
302. ForecasterColby
11:14 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Agreed, Atmos, but the Navy/JTWC only update every 12 hours.

Definetly not a Cat 5 anymore, but still displaying some stunning symmetry.
301. lemmo
10:58 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 65
Issued by the BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY, DARWIN
at 8:16 pm CST Monday 24 April 2006

A CYCLONE WARNING is current for coastal and island communities between ELCHO
ISLAND and PORT KEATS, including DARWIN, the TIWI ISLANDS, COBOURG PENINSULA and
JABIRU.

A CYCLONE WATCH is current between PORT KEATS and KALUMBURU in Western
Australia.

At 7 pm CST [5:30 pm WST] SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE Monica CATEGORY 5 was crossing
the coast about 30 kilometres west of MANINGRIDA, which is 125 kilometres east
northeast of Oenpelli and 355 kilometres east northeast of DARWIN, and moving
west southwest at 14 kilometres per hour. The cyclone is expected to continue to
move west southwest, and commence to weaken as it moves across northwestern
Arnhem Land tonight, but will still be a SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE as it moves
across the northwest DARWIN-DALY and TIWI ISLANDS area during Tuesday.

The VERY DESTRUCTIVE core of SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE Monica with gusts to 350
kilometres per hour is currently affecting parts of the coast between MANINGRIDA
and GOULBURN ISLAND, and is expected to approach the DARWIN-DALY and TIWI ISLAND
area on Tuesday afternoon with gusts to 220 kilometres per hour.

DESTRUCTIVE WINDS with gusts to 160 kilometres per hour are currently being
experienced on the far north coast between MANINGRIDA and GOULBURN ISLAND, and
should progress further west and inland to affect the COBOURG PENINSULA and
OENPELLI tonight, and will then approach the northwest DARWIN-DALY and TIWI
ISLANDS area during Tuesday morning.

GALES with gusts to 100 kilometres per hour are currently being experienced on
the north of the Top End coast, and will extend westward with the cyclone,
approaching the northwest DARWIN-DALY and TIWI ISLANDS area from early Tuesday
morning. GALES may extend further west to KALUMBURU in Western Australia during
Wednesday.

DANGEROUSLY HIGH TIDES could cause EXTENSIVE FLOODING at the coast between
MANINGRIDA and GOULBURN ISLAND tonight.

HEAVY RAIN is expected to cause significant stream rises and flooding of low
lying areas in across the northern Top End tonight and tomorrow.

Details of SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE Monica at 7 pm CST [5:30 pm WST]:
. Centre located near...... 11.8 degrees South 134.1 degrees East
. Location accuracy........ within 30 kilometres
. Recent movement.......... towards the west southwest at 14 km/h
. Wind gusts near centre... 350 kilometres per hour
. Intensity................ CATEGORY 5
. Central pressure......... 915 hectoPascals

REPEATING: A CYCLONE WARNING is current between ELCHO ISLAND and PORT KEATS,
including DARWIN, TIWI ISLANDS, COBOURG PENINSULA and JABIRU.
A CYCLONE WATCH extends southwest to KALUMBURU in Western Australia.

The next advice will be issued at 11 pm CST [9:30 pm WST].
300. atmosweather
10:56 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
What on earth happened to her? She just shrunk and lost all of her solid eyewall. There is no possible way that the winds were 155 kts at landfall.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
299. ForecasterColby
10:32 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Usually it is, though a few cyclones have done solid damage.

Darwin got lucky, Monica turned south and is making landfall now (still has those 155kt winds O_O)
298. Ezzz
10:00 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
I'm not to sure about what damage Cyclones do to the Great Barrier Reef, and you don't here anything about any damage to the reef so it must be pretty minimal.
297. iyou
9:02 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Hey Ezzz! I was taking a last look at some sats and saw your post. Australian eh?! I was wondering where you are at...and I'm glad you are in a safe area. I hope your Northern neighbours are doing whatever necessary to protect themselves ... Monica is a beast ... but looking good in the sats. As well as flora and fauna, I am concerned about damage to the Great Barrier Reef when these cyclones blow through. Any info would be great.
Member Since: July 25, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5219
296. Ezzz
6:35 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Well it is Monday 24th 4:27PM over here in Australia, Monica is certainly a powerful monster and is rounding out our Cyclone Season well which runs from November 1st to April 30th. It has been an average year for cyclones this year, I wouldn't call it an overly active season, the Indian Ocean has been pretty busy this year churning out a few cyclones, and the Coral Sea (where Monica formed) has been quieter than it usually is. But cyclones this year have been generally more intense but the cyclone amount has only been average.
I'm at the same latitude as New Orleans (except I'm south of the equator obviously) and I'm on nearly the most southern part of the Low Risk of what is deemed the Cyclone Threat Area. Haven't had a cyclone here since the 70's, but we always get a few of ECL's every year.
295. atmosweather
6:24 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
LOL Hawkeye. I am just thanking God that it has jogged SW in the last 3 hours, and will end the constant battering of the coastline, and also spare Darwin a catastrophe of Katrina standards.

I'm off to bed now. Great talking with all of you. Have a great night everyone.

Rich
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
294. Hawkeyewx
6:22 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
A lot of trees will be having a bad time of it the next 24 hours. Hundreds of miles of tropical beaches and nobody lives there. I would kill to live in a place like that.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 1924
293. atmosweather
6:17 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
The Northern Territory coast is just getting hammered right now by the southern eyewall.
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292. atmosweather
6:12 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Yes, the AMO does affect the entire world, and so does the ENSO. Look at the tremendous floods in the Phillippines due to La Nina this February.

The main factor in the weakening when it gets near Darwin is that it will be over land and will have endured a lot of friction like every storm goes through. Storms this powerful also tend to weaken more quickly due to the fact that they have been used to such a perfect environment to get to that intensity.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
291. MichaelSTL
6:11 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
In this microwave loop, you can see the eyewall contract and become better defined; the feeder band connected to it weakens as well:

Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
290. Hawkeyewx
6:10 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
It will be going over a bunch of land... that will knock it down quite a bit.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 1924
289. MichaelSTL
6:08 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
By the way, I am wondering about this line in Masters' entry:

However, be reminded that the Northern Hemisphere Pacific Ocean had a very below-normal tropical cyclone season last year, and the Indian Ocean also had below normal activity.

Is there any reason for this (below normal activity in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and greatly above normal in the Atlantic and around Australia). Maybe the AMO can affetc the entire world - if El Nino/La Nina affects the world, then it makes sense that the AMO can. It could also just be a coincidence or related to something else (although I wouldn't be surprised if a NW Pacific storm beat Tip this year).
Member Since: February 22, 2006 Posts: 94 Comments: 32744
288. franck
6:02 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Maybe we will get to see it break like an egg when the eye impacts land in a couple of hours.
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287. franck
5:59 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Atmos..you are probably right. If that is the case what is going to slow this thing to a 2 or 3 before it impacts Darwin?
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
286. atmosweather
5:54 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Plus, Cape Wessel recorded 70 kt sustained winds BEFORE INSTRUMENT FAILURE over 2 hours before the eye's closest approach 9and even then, the eyewall stayed over 50 miles away!!!). So it is likely that the winds are very strong down at the ground.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
285. franck
5:54 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Most of this storm's winds are elevated considerably. This has to be, because it is tracking half over land, and while the terrain
is not mountainous there, it is 50-100 ft beginning right at the coastline.
Member Since: August 30, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1150
284. atmosweather
5:51 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Franck, we could never know that because there is no Hurricane Hunter to analyze the flight level and surface winds. However, since she is still annular and her circulation is extremely large in the 200 mb level, she probably has very strong winds down at the ground (she has also had the stadium effect, which usually means the winds are extremely powerful both in the upper levels and at the surface).
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
283. atmosweather
5:49 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
I wonder whether the UW-CIMSS program has been overloaded by Monica's strength. Even with the blackout, the next estimate should be from 0433 UTC, and there is usually a 50 minute delay in getting the newest update (so we should have had it 25 minutes ago).
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282. franck
5:48 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Is it possible the storms winds are more aloft, and not very high at ground level?
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281. atmosweather
5:45 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Its pretty amazing, isn't it. This is a true example of a self-sustaining storm that creates its own environment. She has not even been affected by having only 2 channels of outflow!!!
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
280. Hawkeyewx
5:43 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
I agree that Monica actually looks more impressive now than several hours ago. I am amazed it still looks like this with nearly half of the storm over land.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 1924
279. atmosweather
5:37 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
New MTSAT image is up. Eye has actually improved in shape, and the general cloud pattern has become less ragged again. Still a remarkable CDO:

Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
278. atmosweather
5:22 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
I will do as much as I can.
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277. DAVIDKRZW
5:21 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
atmosweather an the only things i like you to keep me updat on in my blog on this storm is how storng it is the winds in mph the mb!!! is the fun part of the update me on and what what if it made land fall on would you do that for me in my blog from time to time? to keep me update
276. atmosweather
5:19 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Have a great night, David. I will try and update as much as I can but I think I have to go to bed pretty soon since I have school in 7 hours.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
275. atmosweather
5:18 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Squeak,

I think actually the very slight weakening is just because such strong storms can't possibly stay like that for extended periods of time. It is natural for Category 5's to weaken slightly over time. She is not being affected by limited outlfow (I don't think) since her core is still very strong and symmetrical.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
274. DAVIDKRZW
5:17 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
atmosweather woud you keep me update in my blog i had all most no post today in my blog and it been the last 6hrs or no post in my blog so i would love it if you can keep me up to date in my blog when i am sleeping or any one on her can as well i am off for the night
273. atmosweather
5:16 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Yeah I see it has made a huge southerly jog since we saw the last satellite image. It will make landfall in about 3 hours at Category 5 catastrophic intensity, but there is almost no civilization there. Very, very lucky for Darwin and the rest of the Northern Territory.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
272. Boochan
5:14 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
BOM Has released an early forecast estimate. Monica is starting to turn southerly (WSW) and will cross uninhabited lands within a few hours. It is now expected to weaken moreso and hit Darwin as an Australian Category 3 (I am Guessing a Strong Cat2). This is similar to Glendas landfall a month ago, and won't cause too severe damage. I would say the rainfall would be right up about 300-400mm (12-16 Inches) from it though in the area, especially if it slows down through land. It is expected to also do a repeat of what Ingrid did last season, and cross into Western Australia late Tuesday local time.
271. atmosweather
5:13 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Here we go:

Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
270. atmosweather
5:11 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Good night Ryan :)

Still waiting on the next image and estimate. Must be a temporary 1 day blackout or something.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
269. squeak
5:11 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
That is the new highres image...the last one is from 24 hours ago.

A couple things before I head to bed.

Monica is still steady state with a solid ring of convection surrounding the core. Recent microwave passes show there is no ERC in the making (to see a recent example of what the microwave looks like when an ERC is occuring, check out the images in the Katrina post TC report). Intensity has peaked (earlier this evng...around 2300Z timeframe) at the diurnal max. Note the difference now is probably not SSTs or shear (which are remaining favorable), but likely outflow. The extended time near land is also probably starting to have some effect, although the small core is completely over water. Expect continued steady state with very slow weakening up to a point, when things will fall apart very quickly.
268. ProgressivePulse
5:02 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
You too Rich. I am doing the same, name is Ryan BTW.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5452
267. atmosweather
5:00 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Have a great night Progressive. It was a pleasure talking with you. I am praying for everyone in Monica's path.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
264. ProgressivePulse
4:56 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Night all, hopefully we don't get to experience a storm such as this "at landfall". Love to stay up but work beckons tomorrow. I recommend staring at a stationary point every 10 minutes or so, it reduces the brains tendancy to see everything spinning clockwise or counter clockwise, FYI.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5452
263. snowski
4:54 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
I found a chart of Australian SSTs.

The temperature under Monica is about 30 C.
262. atmosweather
4:45 AM GMT on April 24, 2006
Cory, I saved every image from every channel since 8pm last night. If you want one, you are more than welcome.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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