Southern Hemisphere's strongest hurricane ever slams Australia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:09 PM GMT on April 24, 2006

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Cyclone Monica slammed ashore as a Category 4 hurricane on a sparsely populated region of Australia's north coast today, missing major population centers and sparing that country from serious damage as was experienced in Cylone Larry earlier this season. For a time yesterday, Monica was the most intense tropical cyclone in Southern Hemisphere history--sustatained winds of 180 mph, and a central pressure of 879 mb. This is not far from the world record of 870 mb set in Super Typhoon Tip in 1979, and Monica ranks as the 14th most intense tropical cyclone in world history, and is tied with Cyclone Zoe of 2003 as the strongest Southern Hemisphere cyclone on record. Curiously, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology put Monica's pressure at 915 mb at the same time the Navy Research Lab was reporting 879 mb, so I'm not sure what Monica's final "official" pressure will be. 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.


Figure 1. Cyclone Monica at peak intensity at 0130 GMT April 24, 2006, the strongest storm in Southern Hemisphere history--180 mph sustatined winds, and a 879 mb pressure. Image credit: Navy Research Lab.

Monica has weakened considerably due to interaction with land, and now has a pressure of 935 mb estimated by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Monica probably came ashore as a Category 4 storm. Monica has missed major population centers, and has done little damage. The mining town of Nhulunbuy, on north-east Arnhem Land was thought to be in Monica's path, but the storm veered to the north, limiting the damage in the town to mostly downed trees. It now apears that Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory and a city of 110,000 inhabitants, will not receive a direct hit from Monica.In addition, Monica is expected to weaken as it interacts with the islands and peninsulas surrounging Darwin, so it is unlikely Monica will cause death and destruction similar to what Darwin experienced on Christmas Eve 1974, when Cyclone Tracy smashed the city with Category 4 force winds. Tracy was Australia's worst ever natural disaster. The storm killed at least 65, did over $4 billion in damage, destroyed 80% of Darwin's buildings, and left 20,000 homeless. The city was since rebuilt with stronger building codes.


Figure 2. Damage to Darwin, Australia, after the passage of Cyclone Tracy on Chrismas Eve, 1974. Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Australia.

Jeff Masters

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204. TheSnowman
1:45 PM GMT on April 25, 2006
I'll do a report maybe about why I think Wilma was For Sure The Moast Amazing Cyclone Ever - 2. is Tip and Monica
203. SickOfDumbQuestions
1:12 PM GMT on April 25, 2006
TheSnowman brings up a good point. Due to the natural differences between the Atlantic and the Pacific/Indian Ocean basin's, it nearly impossible to compare storms between the two, as the Pacific and the pressures that normally dominate the 2 basins, allow for the Pacific to get much lower. But we really shouldn't forget wilma. From a TS to Cat 5 in what? 18 hours? To me, that was a major storm and that pin hole eye... I wish I could have been on a flight to see that tightly wound eye...

-Ryan
202. TheSnowman
4:51 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
- Wilma - Coldest Cloud Tops In The Atlantic Basin (-87C/-125F)

(Pulled from my List)

Don't forget our beloved Wilma
200. Scotth
4:47 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
I'm outta here too. Lots of learning to do tomorrow. I agree with Skyepony, David...You're DavidKRZW all the way! You're famous! :)

Good night all.
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
199. DenverMark
4:41 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
While Monica has been a spectacular storm to track, we can all be thankful that landfall was in a sparsely populated area.

-94C, wow! The coldest ever recorded in Antarctica is -89.2C at Vostok.
Member Since: February 11, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 6988
198. Skyepony (Mod)
4:40 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Oh how many times i've heard or seen of those attempting to get a horse by on bread (ussually from a dumpster from behind a grocery). Very nice thing ya did there:)

David~ KRWZ ~ it culminates your awesome prediction of "the Z storm", how could you even consider a change?

Must sleep
73.7
Hint of smoke, like far off muck fire
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
197. Scotth
4:33 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
By the way evryone...I'm in Madison, WI right now. Far away from my Northwest Florida home. And its chilly here. I'd rather be home. Looks like we're about to get rained on here.

Humidity: 79%
Dew Point: 43.2 F / 6 C
Wind: 4 mph / 6 km/h from the North

Wind Gust: 4.7 mph / 7.6 km/h
Pressure: 30.01 in / 1016.1 hPa
Windchill: 49 F / 9 C
Visibility: 10.0 miles / 16.1 kilometers
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Few 3000 ft / 914 m
Mostly Cloudy 7000 ft / 2133 m
Mostly Cloudy 9000 ft / 2743 m

Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
195. Skyepony (Mod)
4:32 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Here's an article interviewing several people both preparing for & dealing with the aftermath of Monica.

Though it's ABC the reporter responds to Well, we just got together a crisis kit, I suppose you'd call it. With
Yep, okay, you've got your backgammon, fantastic. Seems even the media is a little more layed back there, save watching the news on this mostly through a noninternational AU news media, their general breaking news is more global (& perhaps more sensationalized) than the US.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
193. Scotth
4:25 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Skyepony - I bought a palomino (half arabian half quarter horse...almost 16 hands)from an italian baker a long time ago. She was nothing but skin and bones because he was feeding her the leftover breads and rolls from his bakery. He figured that the bread had oats and grain in them and she was just leaning against her stall (she didn't have a lot of strength left). So I bought her for $400 and turned her into a beautiful horse. She's no longer around but she lived until she was about 25 years old. Not old, I know, but a lot longer than she would have had. She was really beautiful though...chest muscles and all. :o)

Sorry everyone...just had to relate that story.

Atmos - That's what that article said ... -94C. That's cold, huh? :o)
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
192. snowboy
4:23 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
hey spike2, are you KRWZ with a new handle?
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
191. snowski
4:16 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
The news media were exactly what I was referring to...
190. Scotth
4:10 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
I would rephrase "emotional sensationalism" with words such as "personality", "eagerness for more knowledge", "amazement at the Power of God"...save "emotional sensationalism" for TWC and the news media. The people on WU are much better than that snowski.
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
189. Skyepony (Mod)
4:07 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Here's the latest on damage reports from Monica

Scotth~ Thanks, I'll have to get a pic of the Cheerpony up (yet unseen in WU land), now that she's shed her coat. As for the overall lack of dire consern in AU, seems due to the lack of population piled on the coastline there. Only a few very small villages were hit, as for Darwin, seems they've way upped the building standards since Tracy. Oddly, I googled away the "cyclone coating a structure" & came up with nothing but references to that article. So perhaps the guy quoted there had no clue...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
188. atmosweather
4:05 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
-94C? That's a ridiculous number. I'm not sure if that is even possible.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
187. snowski
4:02 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Australia has only 1/10 the population of the U.S. and hasn't suffered near the property damage from hurricanes we have. For this reason, they don't feel the need to spend a lot of money on cyclone research, including using their Air Force. So what if an entire forest is stripped as happened with Cyclone Ingrid in 2005--the leaves will grow back:



Besides that, the Aussies are very nice, laid back people--just the best you'll find anywhere--and even if there is an absolute disaster you'll hear a lot of British understatement (not emotional sensationalism).
186. Scotth
3:57 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Michael's link says that Angela's cloud tops actually reached 91.5C-94C!
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
184. atmosweather
3:54 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
And the 8.0 is referring to CIMSS estimate for the corresponding time.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
183. atmosweather
3:53 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
That's from weathermatrix. I would say that the estimate there could be counted as official, since it was written by a forecaster with a discussion. I would like to have seen a pressure as well.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
181. atmosweather
3:48 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
But probably not version 6.4.3
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
177. Skyepony (Mod)
3:42 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
ENSO weekly update~ lookin better & better.

nuetral conditions expected for the next 3-6 months.

Though regions 1,2 & 3 cooled this week


Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
175. atmosweather
3:41 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Remember, that is such an old algorithm that they were probably so far off. They are not using the lastest versions which compensate for much more.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
173. atmosweather
3:40 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Well if that's the case then Monica definitely exceeded 8.0 on the scale and probably for a few hours. ANd, her cloud top AVERAGE was -82 for a couple of estimates (Tip and Angela's maximum recorded cloud top was -84)
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
172. louastu
3:39 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
It sounds to me like the Dvorak Scale may have been out of date when it was put into service.
171. atmosweather
3:38 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Michael, that was a manual ODT number. Monica's 8.0 was raw, calculated and adjusted for 7 hours.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
169. Scotth
3:34 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
snowski - I read an article last night that someone posted on here...Skyepony I think (by the way Skyepony, your horses are beautiful)...and the interview was with a meteorologist from Darwin. He kind of rambled about how some of the trees would be damaged and stuff like that, with no real emotionally charged statements. I wonder if they just don't take it as seriously as we do and, consequently, don't have the desire to put a lot of money into research and gaining more info. If you look at it from their perspective, I guess they figure that there's not a lot that you can do to stop these monsters so why spend the money researching them. Not my opinion but I wonder if it may be theirs.
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
167. Skyepony (Mod)
3:31 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
atmos~ I had never seen that top out like that either. Hope your right about the never see it happen again part...
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
166. atmosweather
3:29 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Dvorak estimates were not available until 1982.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
165. louastu
3:25 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
What were the T numbers for Typhoon Tip?
164. Scotth
3:24 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Michael - Yes, scientists have been dabbling in it for years...research and stuff. Someone needs to initiate a full blown project...which costs money of course...but its money that the government could spend on a true viable project. It would be money well spent, and then we would see progress. That's half the problem, the govenment is not leading the way.

Cyclonbuster - Like this... Link But it would be dreadful hot in your car...LOL! :)
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23
162. atmosweather
3:22 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Yeah skyepony, I have never seen T 8.0 even once, let alone for all 4 estimates and for 9 hours straight. Monica was as close to perfect as you are ever going to see.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
161. snowski
3:21 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
It's true that the Dvorak scale only goes up to 8--but what happens if a cyclone (like Monica) exceeds 170 kts? This points out the need to revise algoritms like AODT for such cases.

Australia also needs to add a hurricane hunter aircraft to their Air Force. They don't cost that much.
Dvorak Current Intensity Chart

CI MWS MWS MSLP MSLP Saffir-Simpson
Number (Knots) (MPH) (Atlantic) (NW Pacific) Category
1 25 KTS 29 MPH (Approximate)
1.5 25 KTS 29 MPH
2 30 KTS 35 MPH 1009 mb 1000 mb
2.5 35 KTS 40 MPH 1005 mb 997 mb
3 45 KTS 52 MPH 1000 mb 991 mb
3.5 55 KTS 63 MPH 994 mb 984 mb
4 65 KTS 75 MPH 987 mb 976 mb 1 (64-83 KTS)
4.5 77 KTS 89 MPH 979 mb 966 mb 1 (64-83 KTS); 2 (84-96 KTS)
5 90 KTS 104 MPH 970 mb 954 mb 2 (84-96 KTS); 3 (97-113 KTS)
5.5 102 KTS 117 MPH 960 mb 941 mb 3 (97-113 KTS)
6 115 KTS 132 MPH 948 mb 927 mb 4 (114-135 KTS)
6.5 127 KTS 146 MPH 935 mb 914 mb 4 (114-135 KTS)
7 140 KTS 161 MPH 921 mb 898 mb 5 (136+ KTS)
7.5 155 KTS 178 MPH 906 mb 879 mb 5 (136+ KTS)
8 170 KTS 196 MPH 890 mb 858 mb 5 (136+ KTS)


CI -- Current Intensity
MWS -- Mean Wind Speed
MSLP -- Mean Sea Level Atmospheric Pressure in Millibars
160. louastu
3:20 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
I think fusion power will become practical. Lasers are an example of a technology that has been researched for decades, that is finally starting to become practical, and I see no reason why fusion won't be the same way.
159. Skyepony (Mod)
3:20 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Still in wonderment of Monica's T #'s of lastnight as well as presentation. That indicates a most intense storm. Perhaps our level of the perfect storm is set too low. Would have loved a recon report.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37339
158. atmosweather
3:18 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Hey Scotth,

I am sorry that I haven't been able to respond due to internet problems. My name is indeed Rich, and I feel honored that you would be so caring as to want to pray for my family. You are a wonderful person, and I will pray for you and your family as well.

Have a great night,

Rich



By the way, has anyone noticed that the latest BOM track now takes Monica into the Timor Sea with possible regeneration occuring?

Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 33 Comments: 9265
157. sfranz
3:16 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
I don't know if it will really take that long to transition. A good chunk of the oil prices this week are the U.S. refineries that are turned off while they scrub the MTBE out of the tanks and refill them with ethanol. They say they couldn't do it until now because of the refineries offline because of Katrina and have to get it done before next week's Federal deadline -- apparently a fuel change can be done in less than a month if you're sufficiently 'motivated.' :-)

Member Since: September 4, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 149
154. Scotth
3:10 AM GMT on April 25, 2006
Michael - Yes it would be 30-40 years...maybe longer before the technology is available.

Cyclone - someone said this to me not long ago...I think it was Colby...where's your link to back you up?

Thanks Colby for that correction...if it was you.

Haydn - Soybeans would be good. We could then see soybean crops return to the fields in Florida
Member Since: August 4, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 23

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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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