Tropical cyclones (TCs) can have severe impacts on Australia. These include extreme rainfall and winds, and coastal hazards such as destructive waves, storm surges, estuarine flooding, and coastal erosion. Various aspects of TCs in the Australian region have been documented over the past several decades. In recent years, increasing emphasis has been placed on human-induced climate change effects on TCs in the Australian region and elsewhere around the globe. However, large natural variability and the lack of consistent long-term TC observations have often complicated the detection and attribution of TC trends. Efforts have been made to improve TC records for Australia over the past decades, but it is still unclear whether such records are sufficient to provide better understanding of the impacts of natural climate variability and climate change. It is important to note that the damage costs associated with tropical cyclones in Australia have increased in recent decades and will continue to increase due to growing coastal settlement and infrastructure development. Therefore, it is critical that any coastal infrastructure planning and engineering decisions, as well as disaster management decisions, strongly consider future risks from tropical cyclones. A better understanding of tropical cyclones in a changing climate will provide key insights that can help mitigate impacts of tropical cyclones on vulnerable communities. An objective assessment of the Australian TCs at regional scale and its link with climate variability and change using improved and up-to-date data records is more imperative now than before. This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Modern Climate Change.
The number of tropical cyclones (TCs) in the Australian region exhibits a large variation between different ENSO regimes. While the difference in TC numbers and spatial distribution of genesis locations between the canonical El Nino and La Nina regimes is well known, the authors demonstrate that a statistically significant difference in TC numbers also exists between the recently identified negative-neutral and positive-neutral regimes. Compared to the negative-neutral and La Nina regimes, significantly fewer TCs form in the Australian region during the positive-neutral regime, particularly in the eastern subregion. This difference is attributed to concomitant changes in various large-scale environmental conditions such as sea level pressure, relative vorticity, vertical motion, and sea surface temperature.