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Cyclone is in fact an early bird

Thursday 2 July 2015 | Published in Regional


BRISBANE – Tropical Cyclone Raquel has formed in the south-west Pacific near the Solomon Islands, triggering the earliest cyclone warning on record issued in northern Melanesia.

“Certainly it’s a unique scenario,” Jess Carey, a spokesman from the bureau’s Queensland office, said. “Since we’ve been tracking cyclones with satellite-based technology, we haven’t seen one in July.”

The storm became a category one cyclone early on Wednesday morning and had a central pressure of 999hPa about 410km north of the Solomon Islands’ capital of Honiara and was forecast to strengthen to a category two system today.

“The cyclone is moving southwest at about 16 kilometres per hour and should gradually intensify over the next 24 hours as it approaches the Solomon Islands,” the bureau said in a statement.

The official Pacific region cyclone season runs from November 1 to April 30. Any cyclone after May or before October is considered unusual.

Casey said the storm was carrying winds of about 130kmh, and since it comes in the second half of the year, will become the earliest recorded in any season for the zone.

While the storm is forecast to remain far from the Queensland coast, it is “certainly not good news for the Solomon Islands”, Casey said.

“We’ve also heard some reports of pretty strong winds in Papua New Guinea,” he said. “It’s affecting quite a wide area.”

Also of note is that a typhoon – as such storms are described in the north-west Pacific basin – is also taking shape to the north of Cyclone Raquel.

“There’s almost an identical system forming on the other side of the equator,” Casey said. “It’s sort of a pigeon pair of cyclones – so it’s an interesting scenario we’ve got at the moment.”

One consequence of the cyclones in the western Pacific is that they may contribute to strengthening the El Nino now taking hold in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.

“It’s plausible, it could happen,” Casey said. “You’ve got quite a significant El Nino brewing at the moment for us.

“What effect does a cyclone have on how the El Nino plays out for the rest of the year, probably we’ll be able to answer that in December or January.”