Science of Cyclones

A new and unified standard for interpreting tropical cyclone data to reduce costs, improve efficiency and save lives

About the project

One of NERA's earliest, the Cyclone Tracking Reanalysis project aimed to improve the quality of historical tropical cyclone data to enhance understanding of the risk profile for new and existing offshore infrastructure.

As part of the project, BoM incorporated recent advances in algorithms that extract key information from geostationary satellite data and applied that to the historical Australian TC from 1981 to 2017.

The accuracy of weather information is not only critical to creating safe working environments, but it also affects the industry's ability to operate efficiently.

The appropriate design of coastal and offshore infrastructure in tropical cyclone regions requires an understanding of the tropical cyclone (TC) risk profile. This means an accurate dataset of TC position, intensity and structure.

The Australian TC archive — the 'best track' — is the repository of the best estimate of each tropical cyclone of at least 6-hourly resolution.

However, the BT dataset is not homogeneous and contains some incomplete long-term records of key parameters required to address some design issues.

Uniting industry and research

This project will help improve the safety for Australia's infrastructure through better design and response strategies, resulting in substantial cost savings.

If operators don't have an accurate idea of what the worst-case weather events can be then they will need to apply a safety factor, which can result in costly over-engineering.

With Australia's oil and gas industry investing an estimated A$320 billion into new oil and gas extraction across Australia over the past decade, delivering efficiencies in design represents a huge opportunity.

The project also provides the opportunity for Australia to be at the forefront of international efforts in TC analysis.

"Quite simply, this is a world-first — the first time that anybody on the planet has studied cyclone data this way ... A better understanding of the past has allowed us to give industry greater confidence in the future."

— Andrew Burton, Senior Meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology

Project results

This project is a testament to how industry and research can collaborate to solve industry-wide challenges and share knowledge to unlock new opportunities.

It has provided a more comprehensive and homogeneous historic dataset that can now be used in wind and wave modelling to provide greater certainty in the engineering design of TC-related engineering structures. This data means better informed decision-making for operators, through which there is great potential to reduce engineering costs, boost operational efficiency and improve the safety of workers on site.

The project has successfully demonstrated a methodology that can be applied globally; it is transferable to other TC affected regions and could be scaled up to produce a global objective analysis. The creation of a quality-controlled satellite image dataset will make it easier to engage in future work with objective algorithms in the Australian region.

The resulting report and data freely available, and available to download on the BoM website. The methodology used and lessons learned from the project will also be shared with the global community via the publication of the scientific paper during 2019.

Project Partners

Project Funding

Total Project Cost: $624,000

NERA: $274,000

Industry: $350,000

* Funding excludes GST