According to the Australia Bureau of Meterology:

Research has shown that cyclones in the Australian region exhibit more erratic paths than cyclones in other parts of the world. A tropical cyclone can last for a few days or up to two or three weeks. Movement in any direction is possible including sharp turns and even loops.

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Why do they change directions so radically? Does this occur in other parts of the world or are North American hurricanes the anomaly in their typically smooth tracks?

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    $\begingroup$ Isn't everything in Australia inherently more dangerous? $\endgroup$
    – corsiKa
    Feb 23, 2015 at 3:43
  • $\begingroup$ If you throw a bunch of leaves in the same location in a flowing stream will they all follow the same path? No, some become stuck along the edges, while others flow seemingly against the current embedded in eddies. Some will sink to the bottom and others will sail by swiftly in a straight line. I think it is subjective to say the Australian region exhibits more erratic than other parts of the world. $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ @IsopycnalOscillation Why do you think it's subjective? It seems perfectly possible to quantify erraticness of a set of paths, e.g., by looking at statistical properties of their deviations from a uniform curve. Are you suggesting that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is just making stuff up? $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby There are a myriad of small and large scale factors that can influence the evolution of a cyclone. At the same time, records of cyclone tracks for the entire world have only been kept for a half a decade. I am not saying there are no mathematical tools that can be used to extract useful information and even a measure of erraticness. I am just not convinced that one can say that the degree of variability is larger in the Australian Basin than in other places of the world with a high degree of confidence. I would be interested in taking a look at what research they are citing. $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ I haven't done any quantitative analysis but looking at the tracks for cyclones off NE Australia and Caribbean/North Atlantic hurricanes, it seems clear to me that the Australian storms frequently do take much more erratic tracks. And seem much less predictable. $\endgroup$
    – haresfur
    Feb 24, 2015 at 2:15

1 Answer 1


The paths of cyclones in the Australian Basin are no more erratic than cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons elsewhere. Conditions at the time of a cyclone's existence determine its path.

Sinuosity of Cyclone Tracks - SW Indian Ocean states that over the past three decades the sinuosity of cyclone paths in the SW Indian Ocean has a high degree of variability. It appears that in that part of the world, cyclones can make more abrupt changes in their paths during January than in other months of the cyclone season. It also goes on the state there are marked periods when the paths of cyclones are less sinuous and other periods when they are more sinuous when compared with long term averages.

The following picture, from Wikipedia, shows the paths of the cyclone tracks for the 1988-89 south west Indian Ocean cyclone season. A number of the paths are erratic.

SW Indian Ocean Cyclones 1988-89

Paths of other cyclones can be seen on the following Wikipedia pages:

1988-89 SW Indian Ocean Cyclone Season

1988-89 Australian Cyclone Season

2013-2014 SW Indian Ocean Cyclone Season

1985-1990 Southern Hemisphere Cyclone Paths

Paths of the World Hurricanes, Cyclones & Typhoons for the past 170 Years

NOAA Site displaying the paths of past cyclones, hurricanes & typhoons

Tracking paths for current cyclones in the Indian Ocean & Western Pacific

  • $\begingroup$ how about the vertical shear during the Australian Monsoon Season ? $\endgroup$
    – user1066
    Feb 23, 2015 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ "The paths of cyclones in the Australian Basin are no more erratic than cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons elsewhere." The quote in the question, cited to a reliable source, says the exact opposite. What is the basis for your assertion? $\endgroup$ Feb 23, 2015 at 9:41

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