A weak tropical low centred in the Van Diemen Gulf was part of the active monsoon trough that was established across the northern parts of the Northern Territory. GMS imagery showed a large area of convection over the Top End and the Timor Sea to the northwest of Darwin. During 2 and early 3 March the low slowly intensified and tracked in a generally northeasterly direction through Dundas Strait and then turned eastwards with cyclonic intensity being reached around 1700 UTC 3 March.
Ferdinand continued to intensify and moved in an east to southeasterly direction close to and approximately parallel to the northern coast of the Northern Territory. Peak intensity occurred about 0800 UTC 4 February when the estimated central pressure was 980 hPa and estimated maximum winds were 115 km/h.
A ship experienced winds estimated to be in excess of 110 km/h for over one hour from 0030 UTC 4 February and Maningrida recorded a maximum gust of 96 km/h at 0330 UTC 4 March when the cyclone was about 40 km to the northwest of the station. The lowest pressure reported by a ship was 991.5 hPa at 1050 UTC 4 March.
Ferdinand crossed the coast just to the east of Maningrida at about 1200 UTC 4 March and rapidly transformed into a rain depression. The depression turned to a southwest track and caused near-record floods on the Katherine and Daly rivers. The surface feature dissipated over the Kimberley region on 6 March but a well-organised cloud pattern persisted up to 8 March as it moved southwards over inland parts of Western Australia before losing identity.
Minor damage was reported at Goulburn Island and around Maningrida.