The recent cyclone to impact the Queensland coast of Australia (Cyclone Debbie, Category 4) tracked towards the coast at what was reported to be a very slow speed (between 6 and 7 km/hr).

Is that a particularly slow speed for a cyclone to move at, and second, what governs the speed and direction of cyclone movement?


1 Answer 1


Cyclones generally drift in a westerly/north westerly direction due to the Beta Drift and Beta Effect

For atlantic hurricanes the forward speeds are summarized here by latitudinal range -Average forward speed of Atlantic Hurricanes and if there is recurve(turn more northerly) they can slow down or if they cross mid latitudes they may pick up speed by interacting with mid latitude troughs.

For the latitude of Midge Point, Queensland you can expect forward speeds of about 17-18 kms/hr. So this cyclone is certainly slow moving.

TC forward speed

There are other factors influencing cyclone tracks which include steering winds, presence of high pressure systems,etc and more recent studies have studied the influence of SST on cyclone tracks Response of cyclone tracks to SST.

From this peer reviewed reference Effect of forward speed on flooding modeling studies reveal that increasing forward speed decreases flooded volumes while increasing peak surge

Back to Cyclone Debbie it looks like from this blog at least Cyclone Debbie Progress the forward speed of the cyclone is probably one of the reasons for the water to be present for more than one day and making sure storm surge occurs at the same time as the high tide.

  • $\begingroup$ Just for clarity, this cyclone impacted the coastline nowhere near Brisbane. Eye passed over Bowen, about 1130 km north of Brisbane. $\endgroup$ Mar 30, 2017 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @user2754486 - so closer to the equator right ? then certainly lower forward speed $\endgroup$
    – user1066
    Mar 30, 2017 at 12:06

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