Carol developed from a weak low that was near the southwest tip of Timor on 12 December 1980. Cyclonic intensity was attained late on 13 December when the GMS imagery showed a large cloud cluster with strong banding to the south of the centre. During the next few days Carol moved westwards and became a severe cyclone. It was most intense late on 16 December when a clearly discernible circular eye could be seen on satellite imagery. The central pressure at this time was estimated to be 940 hPa with a maximum wind of 180 km/h.
On the 17th Carol encountered a strong upper influence of a strong high pressure system to the level northwesterly flow. The low-level centre continued moving westward while the dense overcast cloud associated with the storm sheared away to the southeast causing the storm to weaken rapidly. Carol tracked westward for several days and finally dissipated over tropical waters in the central Indian Ocean on 24 December.
An interesting feature of Carol was its interaction with the weaker cyclone Dan which was operating to the north of Carol from 14 to 18 December. The movement of these cyclones relative to each other on 16 and 17 February was an example of the Fuji-whara effect. Ultimately Carol 's stronger circulation caused Dan to substantially weaken due to upper-level shearing.