Severe Tropical Cyclone Niran

27 February - 5 March 2021


Despite never crossing the Australian coast, Severe Tropical Cyclone Niran caused extensive impacts along the Cassowary Coast of Queensland prior to moving eastwards across the Coral Sea and intensifying into a category 5 tropical cyclone as it passed close to New Caledonia.

A low pressure system first developed off the north Queensland coast on 27 February. Initially, the low moved slowly towards the Cairns coast, but then it began moving northwards from 1 March. The system was named on 2 March as it became slow moving approximately 260 km off the north Queensland coast.

Niran remained slow moving for the next two days while gradually intensifying to a category 3 system. It began accelerating towards the southeast on 4 March, passing to the north of Willis Island in the afternoon. Niran continued to intensify as it moved south-eastwards, becoming a category 5 cyclone on 6 March, just before it crossed the Eastern Region boundary [160 degrees East].

Throughout its entire lifetime, Niran was never expected to make landfall. However, during its initial stages of development on 1 March, gales were experienced on the north Queensland coast due to the tightening pressure gradient. There were reports of minor structural damages, mainly due to falling trees, but the main impact was to the banana plantations along the Cassowary Coast, between Cains and Lucinda. Some growers around Innisfail, particularly at Boogan and Wangan reported total loss of their crop.

The winds along the coast were accompanied by heavy rainfall leading to localised flash flooding and flooding of low-lying areas. A Flood watch had been current for coastal catchments between Cooktown and Rollingstone. The winds and heavy rainfall eased on the coast as the tropical low moved northwards and slightly off the coast on 2 March.

Gales continued over the coastal and offshore waters between Cooktown and Lucinda as tropical cyclone Niran remained slow-moving and intensified over the next two days, 2 to 4 March. Gales and large waves were reported over Willis Island as a category 3 tropical cyclone Niran passed within 110 km north of the island on 4 March.

Niran intensified into a category 5 cyclone as it moved very close to New Caledonia around midnight on 6 March with destructive winds and heavy rainfall causing extensive damage to the power grid and vegetation. Later that day, the cyclone passed 400 km north of Norfolk Island, generating large swells and hazardous surf conditions on the island.

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

Track and Intensity

Best Track of TC Niran