Australian tropical cyclone season outlook

The tropical cyclone season runs from 1 November to 30 April


More cyclones than average likely for Australia

  • An average to above-average number of cyclones are expected for the 2016–17 Australian tropical cyclone season (November–April).
  • Neutral to weak La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean and warmer than average ocean temperatures to the north and east of Australia have influenced this year’s tropical cyclone outlook.
  • During neutral years, the first tropical cyclone to make landfall typically occurs in late December. In La Niña years, the first cyclone to make landfall over Australia typically occurs earlier, around the first week of December.
  • The Australian region typically experiences more tropical cyclone activity during La Niña years

Outlook influences

This outlook is based upon the status of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) over the preceding July to September period. Sea surface temperatures  in  the tropical Pacific Ocean are showing some La Niña-like characteristics but have not reached La Niña thresholds . The majority of climate models predict these ocean conditions to continue into summer with only one model predicting La Niña thresholds to be exceeded. Ocean temperatures are currently 1–2 °C warmer than average to the north and east of Australia which is favourable for tropical cyclone development. The Southern Oscillation Index, a measure of the atmospheric component of ENSO, has been positive through this period and exceeded La Niña thresholds in the last two weeks of September.  

Outlook by region

The outlook indicates that an above-average number of tropical cyclones are most likely in the Australian region and Northwestern sub-region for 2016–17. All other regions are likely to have a near average number of tropical cyclones.  

  • The Australian region has a 67% chance of having more tropical cyclones than average, meaning a 33% chance of having fewer tropical cyclones than average. Typically, around four tropical cyclones cross the Australian coastline in a season. Outlook accuracy for the Australian region is high.
  • The Western region is likely to experience an average number of tropical cyclones this season, with the likelihood of an above average season at 59%. The chance of a below average season is 41%. Typically between about 15% and 40% of tropical cyclones in the Western region create coastal impacts. Outlook accuracy for the Western region is low.
  • The Northwestern sub-region has a 63% chance of more tropical cyclones than average and a 37% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average. Typically, five cyclones form in or pass through this area each season. Around 40% of tropical cyclones in the Northwestern sub-region effect coastal areas at some stage in their life cycle. Outlook accuracy in this region is moderate.
  • The Northern region outlook suggests an average number of tropical cyclones with a 56% chance of more tropical cyclones than average and a 44% chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average. In an average year the Northern region typically experiences three cyclones, and one or two tropical lows that later become cyclones after moving into the Western or Eastern regions. About three-quarters of the tropical cyclones in the Northern region impact coastal regions. Outlook accuracy in this region is very low.
  • The Eastern region outlook also indicates a near average tropical cyclone season is most likely, with a 58% chance of above average and 42% chance of below average numbers. About a quarter of tropical cyclones in the Eastern region make landfall. Outlook accuracy in this region is low.

Product code: IDCKAUTCSO