A tropical low was first identified on 3 March 2002. A middle to upper level cut off low developing just south of Brisbane, steered the tropical low east-southeast at which time it rapidly developed into tropical cyclone Des by 1200 UTC on 5 March 2002. By this time, the cut off low was clearly evident on analysis and formed part of an involuted pattern with ridging to the south extending into the Tasman Sea. This pattern slowly relaxed though deep west-northwesterly flow was maintained across much of the Coral Sea. At this time a large Mean Sea Level high moved into the Tasman Sea, positioned south of Des . As a consequence, low level easterlies underlying upper level westerlies rapidly sheared the system by 0600 UTC on 6 March 2002.
The only impact on the Australian mainland was swells 5-6 metres (peak heights) reaching the southern Queensland and northern NSW coasts generated by an extended fetch between Des and the large high. Generally this swell was beneficial, bringing perfect waves for an international surfing contest, however the conditions proved dangerous for the general public and lifesavers made many rescues and closed a large number of beaches.