Fred developed from an active area of convection associated with the monsoon shear line about midway between Cocos and Christmas Islands late on 19 February 1980. It reached tropical cyclone strength early on 21 February 1980 and attained its maximum intensity on the afternoon of 24 February 1980 when the central pressure was estimated to be near 930 hPa. Despite the small size of the cyclone it maintained this intensity with minor fluctuations until about 1200 UTC 25 February 1980. Early on 26 February the direction of movement changed from southwestward to southward as Fred came under the influence of a northwesterly upper-level flow. It weakened rapidly as it moved into a strong ridge of high pressure located at about latitude 33°S. No ship reports were received within 200 km of the cyclone centre.