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Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) Closer to Making Landfall in Queensland, Australia

18.6S 151.1E

March 20th, 2010 Category: Tropical Storms

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 18th, 2010

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 18th, 2010

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Track of TC 20P - March 20th, 2010 © Univ. of Wisconsin

Track of TC 20P

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P), located approximately 510 nautical miles east-southeast of Cairns, has tracked southwestward at 13 knots over the past six hours. Maximum significant wave height is 24 feet.

Animated infrared satellite imagery shows a partially exposed low level circulation center (LLCC) with a loss in deep convection.

However, an SSMIS microwave image indicates the deep convection has developed slightly over the last six hours though it also confirms the deep convection is still limited to the southern periphery of the system.

An upper level trough to the west has caused increased vertical wind shear (VWS) and subsidence aloft, which has contributed to the weakening of TC 20P. The initial intensity is based on persistent Dvorak intensity estimates of 55 knots.

TC Ului will continue to track southwestward to westward toward northeastern Australia as the subtropical ridge builds in to the south and east. The system will weaken under the influence of moderate VWS, prior to reaching land after TAU 24, with complete dissipation over land by TAU 48.

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) Expected to Make Landfall in Queensland, Australia

14.6S 152.5E

March 19th, 2010 Category: Tropical Storms

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 16th, 2010

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 16th, 2010

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Track of TC 20P - March 18th, 2010 © Univ. of Wisconsin

Track of TC 20P

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) is one of the fastest intensifying tropical cyclones on record, strengthening from a tropical storm to a Category 5 equivalent cyclone within a 24 hour span.

Between 13 and 14 March, Cyclone Ului underwent an unusually explosive phase of rapid intensification. During a 24 hour span, the system intensified from a tropical storm to a Category 5 equivalent cyclone, tying Hurricane Wilma in 2005 for the fastest intensification of a system from tropical storm to Category 5.

According to the JTWC, maximum sustained winds increased from 100 km/h (65 mph) to 260 km/h (160 mph). They also estimated that the storm’s minimal central pressure had decreased from 982 mbar (hPa) to 918 mbar (hPa), a drop of 64 mbar (hPa), during this span.

Ului was first identified by the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) late on 9 March roughly 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of Hiw Island, Vanuatu. At this time, the system was classified as Tropical Disturbance 13F.

Early the following day, the system became sufficiently organized for the FMS to upgrade the disturbance to a tropical depression. Several hours later, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) also began monitoring the system. By this time, deep convection had developed around a low-level circulation and banding features had formed. A slow westward movement was expected as the depression was situated north of a subtropical ridge.

On 12 March, 13F was upgraded to Tropical Cyclone Ului. By early on 13 March, it was a category 2 cyclone. Later that day, Ului strengthened into a category 3, making it a severe tropical cyclone. The storm continued to strengthen throughout the day and that night it became a category 5.

Ului became the first category 5 South Pacific cyclone since Severe Tropical Cyclone Percy in February of 2005 but weakened to category 4 about the time it crossed the 160°E meridian. The system was predicted to restrengthen back into a category 5 as it moved away from an upper level low and Severe Tropical Cyclone Tomas, however 20P remained as a category 4 and had weakened to a category 3 system in the early hours of 18 March but is expected to restrengthen.

As a Category 5 cyclone, Ului passed through the southern Solomon Islands, causing severe damage on the islands of Rennell, Guadalcanal as well as Bellona province. Large swells produced by the storm washed away several homes along coastal areas. Flooding was also reported on several islands; however, officials confirmed that no fatalities resulted from the storm.

Maximum winds on the affected islands reached 120 km/h (75 km/h). On Rennell Island, initial reports stated that at least ten homes had been severely damaged or destroyed in several villages. Light to moderate damage was sustained on Makira and Guadalcanal, with at least two homes sustaining damage.

Unconfirmed reports of a large wave inundating several villages, washing away homes and overturning large boulders came from east Makira around 4:00 pm local time. Another village on the western side of Makira was reportedly inundated roughly five hours later. Later damage assessments made on Makira Island confirmed at least 13 homes were destroyed and several more were damaged. The most severe damage took place in Woau village where ten homes were destroyed.

After Cyclone Ului passed through the Solomon Islands, officials in Queensland, Australia began warning residents about the possibility of the storm making landfall in the region. Large swells produced by the system prompted lifeguards to close large areas of public beaches. These swells were anticipated to be the largest experienced along the Queensland coastline in the past decade and emergency management officials warned residents living along coastal areas that the waves would likely inundate low-lying regions.

On 18 March, new forecasts of the future track of Ului indicated that it would make landfall in Queensland. As a result, officials evacuated roughly 300 people from the islands of Heron and Lady Elliot, situated about 1,000 km (620 mi) off the Australian mainland. Residents along the Sunshine Coast were advised to prepare their homes for a possible Category 4 cyclone and stock up on non-perishable foods.

Later on 18 March, the Bureau of Meteorology is expecting that the cyclone will cross or near the Queensland coast, between Cardwell and Mackay, on 21 March as a category 3 cyclone. Several ports along the Queensland coastline were shut down for several days as large waves impacted the region. Transportation of coal and other raw materials was halted in these areas as well.

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) Expected to Turn West Towards Northeast Coast of Australia

13.9S 153.2E

March 18th, 2010 Category: Tropical Storms

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 15th, 2010

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P) - March 15th, 2010

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Track of TC 20P - March 17th, 2010 © Univ. of Wisconsin

Track of TC 20P

Tropical Cyclone Ului (20P), located approximately 715 nautical miles east-northeast of Cairns, Australia, has tracked southwestward at 1 knot over the past six hours.  Upon opening the full image, the coast of Queensland can be seen to the South.

Animated multispectral satellite imagery indicates TC Ului has attained a well-defined, symmetric, visible eye over the last 12 hours.

However, a microwave image also depicts waning deep convection throughout the system despite its well-organized structure. Accordingly, Dvorak estimates from have dropped and the system has weakened slightly to 105 knots. Maximum significant wave height is 27 feet.

The system is currently drifting southward (towards a mid-latitude trough-induced weakness in the ridge) in a competing steering environment created by the subtropical ridge to the southwest and the near equatorial ridge to the northeast.

The trough will push downstream within the next 12 to 24 hours, allowing the subtropical ridge to re-establish itself to the south of the TC. This will enable Ului to turn west towards the northeast coast of Australia after TAU 36.

The intensity should hover around 100 knots with environmental conditions remaining fairly constant through the first 72 hours before slowly weakening due to decreasing poleward outflow and less favorable ocean heat content values. The forecast closely follows the model consensus, which has changed little over the last day.