Australian east coast low

An East Coast Low on 25 June 2013

Australian east coast lows (known locally as east coast lows and sometimes as east coast cyclones[1]) are extratropical cyclones.[2] The most intense of these systems have many of the characteristics of subtropical cyclones.[3] They develop between 25˚ south and 40˚ south and within 5˚ of the Australian coastline,[1] typically during the winter months.[4][5] Each year there are about ten "significant impact" maritime lows.[6]

Prior to the introduction of satellite imagery in the early 1960s, many east coast lows were classified as tropical cyclones. These storms which mostly affect the south east coast should not be confused with Australian region tropical cyclones which typically affect the northern half of the continent.[7]


Explosive cyclogenesis is seen on average just once per year, but these storms cause significant wind and flood damage when they occur.[4] Australian east coast cyclones vary in size from mesoscale (approximately 10–100 km (6–62 mi)) to synoptic scale (approximately 100–1,000 km (62–621 mi)).[8][9]

Australian east coast cyclones, although variable in size and intensity, are typically characterised by widespread heavy rainfall.[9] These storms usually occur along the subtropical east coast of Australia from Gladstone in Queensland to the Victoria/New South Wales border, and often affect large populated cities such as Sydney and Brisbane, between which over one-third of the Australian population resides.[9] Rain associated damages attributed to east coast cyclones are estimated in millions to tens of million dollars annually and are a major contributor to the total weather-associated insurance losses for all of Australia.[9] Seven per cent of all major Australian disasters since 1967 can be directly attributed to east coast cyclones.[9] Australian east coast lows often intensify rapidly overnight making them one of the more dangerous weather systems to affect the New South Wales coast.[6]


The incidence of these types of storms can be seen to fluctuate quite widely from one year to the next, with none in some years and the highest incidence being twelve in 1978/79.[7] Another feature of east coast low development is the tendency for clustering of events when conditions remain favourable. For example, near Brisbane, almost one third of events occur within 20 days of a preceding event.[7]

Correlations of east coast cyclones with the interannual differences of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) indicate a strong preference for these storms to form just after a large swing from negative to positive Southern Oscillation index values and especially between swings from negative SOI the year before and positive SOI the year after. This suggests a preference for formation of east coast cyclones between extreme events of the Southern Oscillation Index.[9]


Suomi NPP satellite image of east coast low 21 April 2015
  • 23–25 August, An unusual low formed late in the season bringing some flooding along the coast.[12][13] 390 millimetres (15 in) of rainfall was recorded at Nowra in 48 hours.[14]
  • 28 April–1 May[15] – On 28 April the Bureau of Meteorology reported that an east coast low was forming off the coast of Fraser Island. Record breaking rainfall and strong winds were recorded in southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales causing 5 fatalities in the Caboolture area.[16]
  • 20–23 April[17] At least 4 people died in an event that was described as the worst since 2007. Severe flooding affected the areas of Maitland and Dungog, inundating homes and isolating entire communities. Power and water access was restricted for tens of thousands of homes across the wider Hunter Region.[18][19]
Pasha Bulker stranded by an east coast cyclone on Nobbys Beach, Newcastle June 2007

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Leslie, Lance M.; Speer, Milton S. (1998). "Short-Range Ensemble Forecasting of Explosive Australian East Coast Cyclogenesis". Weather and Forecasting. 13 (3): 822–832. Bibcode:1998WtFor..13..822L. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(1998)013<0822:SREFOE>2.0.CO;2.
  2. Dowdy, Andrew J.; Graham A. Mills; Bertrand Timbal; Yang Wang (February 2013). "Changes in the Risk of Extratropical Cyclones in Eastern Australia". Journal of Climate. 26 (4): 1403–1417. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00192.1. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  3. 1 2 Dowdy, Andrew J.; Mills, Graham A.; Timbal, Bertrand (2011). "Large-scale indicators of Australian East Coast Lows and associated extreme weather events". In Day K. A. CAWCR technical report; 37 (PDF). CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. ISBN 978-1-921826-36-8. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 Holland, Greg J.; Lynch, Amanda H.; Leslie, Lance M. (1987). "Australian East-Coast Cyclones. Part I: Synoptic Overview and Case Study". Monthly Weather Review. 115 (12): 3024–3036. Bibcode:1987MWRv..115.3024H. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1987)115<3024:AECCPI>2.0.CO;2.
  5. 1 2 Lim, Eun-Pa; Simmonds, Ian (2002). "Explosive Cyclone Development in the Southern Hemisphere and a Comparison with Northern Hemisphere Events" (PDF). Monthly Weather Review. 130 (9): 2188–2209. Bibcode:2002MWRv..130.2188L. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(2002)130<2188:ECDITS>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  6. 1 2 "About East Coast Lows". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 Harper, Bruce; Ken Granger (2000). "Chapter 5: East coast low risks". In K. Granger & M. Hayne. Natural hazards and the risks they pose to South-East Queensland (PDF). Australian Geological Survey Organisation in conjunction with Bureau of Meteorology. ISBN 0642467080. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "Australian East Coast Storm 2007: Impact of East Coast Lows" (PDF). Guy Carpenter. October 2007. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hopkins, Linda C.; Holland, Greg J. (1997). "Australian Heavy-Rain Days and Associated East Coast Cyclones: 1958–92". Journal of Climate. 10 (4): 621–635. Bibcode:1997JCli...10..621H. doi:10.1175/1520-0442(1997)010<0621:AHRDAA>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  10. "Weather warning: Heavy rain brings flooding, strong winds and dangerous surf". ABC News. 5 June 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  11. "Sydney homes evacuated as king tide combines with east coast low". ABC News. 5 June 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
  12. Higgins, Kate (25 August 2015). "NSW weather: Severe east coast low hitting late in season, meteorologist says". ABC. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  13. Hannam, Peter (24 August 2015). "Sydney weather: City to sit on 'edge' of unusual east coast low". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
  14. "Nowra daily temperature and rain summaries". Weatherzone. 2 September 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  15. "Weather forecast for Sydney and NSW". 27 April 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  16. "Queensland weather: Three people killed in car washed off flooded road; storm moves into northern NSW - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  17. "NSW wild weather: Three killed, homes washed away in Dungog as 'cyclonic' winds batter Sydney, Hunter and Central Coast - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)". 21 April 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  18. "Three dead as severe storms hit New South Wales in Australia". BBC News. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  19. Dean, Sarah (21 April 2015). "'Cyclonic' conditions and the heaviest rainfall in a century: The vicious 'East Coast Low' wreaking havoc across NSW explained". Daily Mail. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  20. "East coast low cause of wild NSW weather". Sky News. 15 October 2014. Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  21. Hannam, Peter. "'Once every 100 years': what made the Sydney storm so ferocious" (15 October 2014). The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  22. "Snow, winds and floods — chaos from city to mountains". 16 October 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  23. Guerit, Charlie (2 July 2013). "East coast low caused the flooding rains". Milton Ulladulla Times. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  24. "SES issues flash flooding warning for NSW coast". ABC News. 22 June 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  25. Mills, Graham A.; Rob Webb; Noel E. Davidson; Jeffrey Kepert; Alan Seed; Deborah Abbs (2010). "The Pasha Bulker east coast low of 8 June 2007". CAWCR Technical Report No. 023 (PDF). The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research A partnership between CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. ISBN 978-1-921605-77-2. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  26. "June 2007 East Coast Lows". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  27. "Severe weather likely for south-east NSW and eastern Victoria at the weekend". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  28. "broken link". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 "When were most recent major East Coast Lows?". Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  30. Erdman, Jon (22 April 2015). "Australia Storm Hammers Sydney, New South Wales; 3 Dead, Hundreds Evacuated as Flooding Washes Away Homes". The Weather Channel. Retrieved 26 April 2015.

External links

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