Severe Tropical Cyclone Nathan

9 - 27 March 2015


Severe Tropical Cyclone Nathan was a long-lasting tropical cyclone that made multiple landfalls as it moved, from the Coral Sea to the far north Queensland coast, then across the Gulf of Carpentaria and over the Top End of the Northern Territory coast.

After forming into a tropical cyclone on 10 March, Nathan quickly reached category two intensity but remained at that intensity as it moved slowly to the west over the following days. Nathan came within 60 km of the far north Queensland coast during 13 March causing a brief period of gales to a remote part of the coast north of Cooktown. Nathan then tracked away to the east and weakened slipping below cyclone intensity briefly on 14 March, before redeveloping to category 2 intensity once more on 15 March. Nathan once more weakened below cyclone intensity on 17 March as it slowed and drifted southwards. However, from late on 17 March to 18 March Nathan underwent a period of rapid intensification reaching category three intensity as it recommenced a track to the west. Nathan made landfall in a sparsely populated area of the coast north of Cooktown in the early hours of 20 March as a category three cyclone. It then quickly weakened as it moved overland.

Nathan redeveloped again on 21 March in the Gulf of Carpentaria, reaching category 3 intensity as it crossed the Northern Territory coast south of Nhulunbuy on the morning of 22 March. Nathan's northwesterly track meant it moved over water later that day and resulted in the system maintaining category two intensity during 23 March. It then weakening slightly, crossing the NT coast as a category one intensity system on the morning of 24 March west of Maningrida.

Initially Nathan was an averaged sized tropical cyclone having gales extending 80-90 nm (150-165 km) to the north, associated with monsoonal forcing. However, from its period of rapid intensification on 18 March, Nathan became a very small circulation, having gales extend only about 30-60 nm (55-110 km) from the centre. This small size was maintained during its time over the Gulf of Carpentaria and as it affected the Northern Territory coast.

The small scale of the system and its track over generally remote parts of the coastlines, both in Queensland and Northern Territory, meant that wind impacts were minor. Some minor damage occurred at Cooktown as Nathan crossed the far north Queensland coast.

Fortunately, the destructive core of the cyclone skirted around the north coast communities of Nhulunbuy, Galiwink'u, Ramingining and Milingimbi, which were affected by Severe Tropical Cyclone Lam in February. Residents of Galiwink'u on Elcho Island who were temporarily housed in a tented camp after Lam destroyed their houses were placed in secure accommodation during Nathan's passage. Several hundred residents of the community of Warruwi on Goulburn Island were evacuated by air to Darwin for the second time this season in anticipation of a direct hit from Nathan.

The cyclone and its remnant tropical depression brought heavy rainfall and flooding to many parts of the Northern Territory's Top End. The highest 24-hour rainfall totals included 208 mm at Alcan Mine on the Gove Peninsula, 261 mm at Fanny Creek and 215 mm at Dorisvale in the Katherine River catchment, and 208 mm at Snowdrop Creek in the Waterhouse River catchment.

For more information see the TC Nathan Report (pdf).

Track and Intensity

Best Track of TC Nathan