THE Australian oil and gas industry has been warned to start preparing for a more active tropical cyclone season in 2016–17, according to the latest Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) cyclone outlook.

BOM’s Climate Prediction Services manager, Dr Andrew Watkins, said that neutral to weak La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean is expected to create the conditions for an average to above-average tropical cyclone season.

“This year we’re experiencing warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures around northern Australia and this will help to fuel the tropical cyclone season ahead,” Dr Watkins said.

“History shows that in an average season, about 11 cyclones form in the Australian region between November and April. On average, four of these will make landfall.”

Last year Australia had the lowest number of tropical cyclones on record with just three formed during the season. Only one made landfall, with Tropical Cyclone Stan crossing WA’s Pilbara Coast as a Category 2 system.

“It is highly unlikely Australia will see a cyclone season as quiet this year,” Dr Watkins said.

Australia’s offshore oil and gas operators and service companies working off the northern and western coasts of the country will need to be especially prepared for this season.

The BOM outlook indicates that an above-average number of tropical cyclones are most likely in the Australian region and Northwestern sub-region for 2016–17. All other regions are likely to have a near average number of tropical cyclones.

The BOM report said the Australian region has a 67% chance of having more tropical cyclones than average.

Typically, around four tropical cyclones cross the Australian coastline in a season. Outlook accuracy for the Australian region is high.

  • The Western region is likely to experience an average number of tropical cyclones this season, with the likelihood of an above average season at 59%. Typically between about 15% and 40% of tropical cyclones in the Western region create coastal impacts. Outlook accuracy for the Western region is low.
  • The Northwestern sub-region has a 63% chance of more tropical cyclones than average. Typically, five cyclones form in or pass through this area each season. Around 40% of tropical cyclones in the Northwestern sub-region effect coastal areas at some stage in their life cycle. Outlook accuracy in this region is moderate.
  • The Northern region outlook suggests an average number of tropical cyclones with a 56% chance of more tropical cyclones than average. In an average year the Northern region typically experiences three cyclones, and one or two tropical lows that later become cyclones after moving into the Western or Eastern regions. About three-quarters of the tropical cyclones in the Northern region impact coastal regions. Outlook accuracy in this region is very low.
  • The Eastern region outlook indicates a near average tropical cyclone season is most likely, with a 58% chance of above average numbers. About a quarter of tropical cyclones in the Eastern region make landfall. Outlook accuracy in this region is low.

Acting Regional Director for Western Australia, Grahame Reader, said this season could potentially be the most active for a number of years.

“Over the past five years the number of significant cyclone and flood impacts has been well below average, and the 2015-16 season was a very quiet one, with only Tropical Cyclone Stan impacting the WA coast at the end of January 2016.” he said.

According to the Tropical Cyclone Seasonal Outlook for Western Australia there is a likelihood of around two coastal impacts and a significant risk of at least one severe tropical cyclone coastal impact during the season.

Northern Territory Regional Director, Todd Smith, said the Top End is expecting an above average season.

“This will mean a much more active season than 2015/16 where we had just three tropical cyclones across Australia, the lowest number on record. The average for Australia is 11 each year. In a typical season, we usually see two to three cyclones form in NT waters, with at least one of those crossing the coast.”

The tropical cyclone season runs from 1 November to 30 April.