As a pack of tropical lows looms off the WA coast, the latest forecast is for the biggest, Tropical Cyclone Seroja, to continue south-west and turn towards the coast on Saturday.
According to Andrew Burton, manager of tropical cyclones at the Bureau of Meteorology, the system is likely to impact as a category two as early as Sunday afternoon, but more likely overnight Sunday into Monday.
Cyclones are notoriously prone to change so please keep up to date with the warnings over the weekend.
"The important thing for some will be that this system will also take a period of severe weather, right through the Wheatbelt and down towards the Southern Goldfields," Mr Burton warned.
It might feel like there is a lot going on at the moment but according to Mr Burton cyclones often hunt in packs.
"Often you have a period where there's nothing around and then you have two or three tropical lows and that's exactly what we have at the moment, three tropical lows."
But it's quite rare to see three so close together.
"It's very rare to see two of them interacting as closely as we have Seroja and another tropical low interacting at the moment," he said.
However this particular atmospheric quirk can't be attributed to climate change, according to Mr Burton.
"We couldn't say that climate change was involved in creating this scenario," he said.
"Climate change is actually expected to lead to fewer cyclones overall but we won't see any less of the ones that really matter, the really severe cyclones," according to Mr Burton.
Despite current events, the number of tropical cyclones has been going down over the past few decades.
[embed tropical cyclone graph]But that doesn't necessarily mean the impacts from tropical cyclones will be less in the future. When it comes to climate change and cyclones it's complicated.
Cyclone intensity forecast to increase ? a little
Tropical cyclones, also known as hurricanes and typhoons ? all the same meteorological phenomena ? feed off the energy of the ocean.
According to Michael Montgomery, professor of meteorology at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, as the heat content in the ocean goes up the amount of energy available to tropical cyclones increases.
"Physical reasoning suggests the intensity is going to go up a little bit," Dr Montgomery said.
"But will it go up dramatically? The answer is no."
The top end intensity of storms is only expected to increase a little in terms of wind speeds but the proportion of severe storms is expected to go up.
Whether or not this is happening already is up for debate.
"I think the emerging consensus among many of the leading experts in the US and Australia is that right now we're not able to compellingly disentangle or separate the natural variability in the number of intense storms from the human-induced climate change signal," Dr Montgomery said.
But they are more confident about the future.
"There are still uncertainties in these model predictions, but I don't think there's a lot of debate as to whether or not the intensity of storms will go up a little bit. I think that's pretty clear," he said.
Sea level and rainfall intensity set to increase
The current category system for tropical cyclones is based upon wind speed but that is not the only hazard with a cyclone.
Cindy Bruyere, director of the Capabilities Centre for Weather and Climate Extremes Division of NCAR in the US, said on top of upping the proportion of major storms, increased sea surface temperatures would also lead to storms spending more time over land with increased precipitation.
We don't have to think too far back for an example.
Cyclone Debbie in 2017 brought isolated 24-hour rainfall totals of more than 600mm on the Gold Coast hinterland, well away from its initial landfall in the Whitsundays.
According to Dr Bruyere, the warm waters were a driving factor of why Cyclone Debbie was so destructive after its initial impact.
"It wasn't necessarily a significantly stronger storm but it rained a lot and it rained much further inland, and away from the area where the storm made landfall, than typical," she said.
"I think the storms of the future are going to spend significantly more time over very warm water and therefore going to have that same signal of being long over land."
The atmosphere's capacity to hold water also increases by around 7 per cent with every degree the world warms, leading to more intense heavy rainfall.
On top of all that, rising sea levels will also lead to increased inundation from storm surge and flooding.
Cyclones moving south
Observations have shown both where cyclones form as well as where they reach their maximum intensity has been moving away from the equator in recent decades.
One theory is that as the world warms it is causing the Hadley Circulation, one of the major global atmospheric circulations that transports air and energy from the equator towards the poles, to expand effectively pushing cyclones away from the equator.
Dr Montgomery says that if cyclones move south and the intensity of storms goes up a little as well as the duration increasing then a tropical cyclone's ability to impact the Australian population in southern Australia will go up.
"So that makes the southern part of Australia a little bit more prone to hurricane hazards than they are even presently," he warned.
One of the areas of concern in Australia is south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, where the population density is much higher than the equivalent regions on the west coast.
Compared to the tropics, Dr Bruyere says both the high-density population as well as lower building codes mean there are a lot of people and a lot of less resilient property that could be damaged in south-east Queensland.
"I think one of the things that people should be planning for is potentially changing the building codes in the south to be more consistent to what is in the north," she said.
"So that we have building stock in the south that would resist these storms when they do make landfall further south."
Late season cyclones
But according to Mr Burton, it's not unusual for cyclones like Seroja to come this far south this time of year.
"That's because, as well as the patterns in the atmosphere shifting and encouraging them to travel further south before they turn into the coast, we also have the very warm sea surface temperatures," he said.
"We've spent all season warming up the ocean off the west coast so there are some very warm sea surface temperatures there to help feed the cyclone as it's coming further south and stop it from weakening."
So if you are on the west coast prepare for some rare weather.
Keep up to date with warnings on the ABC Emergency website, Facebook or radio and remember to heed the advice of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Bureau of Meteorology.
© ABC 2021
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