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Tropical Cyclone Iris Weakens East of Queensland

Tropical Cyclone Iris weakened over the Coral Sea east of Queensland on Wednesday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Tropical Cyclone Iris was located at latitude 19.6°S and longitude 152.3°E which put it about 230 miles (370 km) east-northeast of Mackay, Australia.  Iris was moving toward the east-southeast at 4 m.p.h. (6 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 45 m.p.h. (75 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 990 mb.

An upper level ridge east of Australia was producing strong northwesterly winds which were blowing toward the top of Tropical Cyclone Iris.  Those winds were causing strong vertical wind shear which weakened Iris on Wednesday.  The stronger thunderstorms were occurring in bands southeast of the center of circulation.  The bands in other parts of the circulation consisted primarily of showers and low clouds.  The wind shear was not quite strong enough to blow the top off of the circulation, but the shear was preventing upper level divergence on the northern side of Tropical Cyclone Iris.

Tropical Cyclone Iris will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 28°C.  So, there is enough energy in the upper ocean to support a tropical cyclone.  However, the upper level ridge will continue to cause strong vertical wind shear and Tropical Cyclone Iris is likely to slowly weaken during the next several days.

Tropical Cyclone Iris is moving slowly toward the east-southeast.  If the vertical wind shear blows the top half of the circulation away to the southeast, then Iris would be steered by the winds in the lower atmosphere.  A high pressure system in the lower atmosphere over Australia would begin to steer Tropical Cyclone Iris back toward the northwest.  On its anticipated track the center of Tropical Cyclone Iris is expected to remain east of Queensland.  Rainbands on the western periphery have occasionally brought rain to the coast of Queensland, but most of the rain is falling over the ocean.

Tropical Cyclone Iris Prompts Warnings for Queensland

The proximity of Tropical Cyclone Iris prompted the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to issued Warnings and Watches for the east coast of Queensland on Monday.  A Warning was issued for the portion of the coast from Ayr to Sarina including Mackay and the Whitsunday Islands.  A Watch was issued for the portion of the coast from Sarina to St. Lawrence.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Monday the center of Tropical Cyclone Iris was located at latitude 17.1°S and longitude 149.0°E which put it about 210 miles (335 km) northeast of Townsville, Australia.  Iris was moving toward the southeast at 3 m.p.h. (4 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 994 mb.

The circulation of Tropical Cyclone Iris was asymmetrical.  Most of the showers and thunderstorms were located south and east of the center of circulation.  The bands north and west of the center consisted primarily of low clouds and showers.  Tropical Cyclone Iris was near the western end of an upper level ridge.  The ridge was producing northwesterly winds which were blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds were producing moderate vertical wind shear and they were probably responsible for the asymmetrical distribution of thunderstorms.

Tropical Cyclone Iris will be moving through an environment marginally favorable for intensification during the next 48 hours.  Iris will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  However, the upper level ridge will continue to produce moderate vertical wind shear.  The shear will be strong enough to inhibit intensification.  If the strength of the upper level winds slows, then Tropical Cyclone Iris could strengthen, but if the upper level winds get faster, then Iris will weaken.  The forecast is for slow intensification, but there is high uncertainty about the intensity forecast.

The subtropical ridge east of Iris is steering Tropical Cyclone Iris slowly toward the southeast.  A general motion toward the southeast is expected to continue for several more days.  On its anticipated track the center of Tropical Cyclone Iris is expected to stay east of the coast of Queensland.  However, Tropical Cyclone Iris could come close enough to the coast to bring gusty winds and locally heavy rain to locations under Warnings and Watches.

Tropical Cyclone Iris Redevelops East of Queensland.

Tropical Cyclone Iris redeveloped east of Queensland on Sunday night.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Tropical Cyclone Iris was located at latitude 16.9°S and longitude 148.7°E which put it about 190 miles (310 km) east of Cairns, Australia.  Iris was moving toward the southwest at 8 m.p.h. (13 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 45 m.p.h. (75 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 60 m.p.h. (95 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 995 mb.

Tropical Cyclone Iris formed over the Coral Sea last week but wind strong vertical shear quickly weakened Iris into an area of low pressure.  The low pressure system meandered over the Coral Sea east of Australia during the past few days.  More thunderstorms developed near the center of circulation on Sunday and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology designated the system as Tropical Cyclone Iris again.

The circulation around Tropical Cyclone Iris was still reorganizing on Sunday night.  A distinct low level center of circulation was evident on visible satellite images.  More thunderstorms were developing near the center.  A primary rainband wrapped around the northern, eastern and southern sides of the center of circulation.  Bands northwest of the center consisted mainly of showers and low clouds.  Storms near the core of the circulation generated upper level divergence which was pumping mass away to the east of the tropical cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Iris will move through an environment somewhat favorable for intensification on Monday.  Iris will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is 29°C.  It is moving around the western end of an upper level ridge.  The ridge is producing northwesterly winds which were blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds were causing moderate vertical wind shear and they may have been the reason for the lack of strong rainbands northwest of the center of circulation.  The wind shear is likely to inhibit intensification, but it probably won’t prevent Tropical Cyclone Iris from intensifying on Monday.

Tropical Cyclone Iris was moving around the western end of a subtropical ridge which was steering Iris toward the southwest.  Iris will likely move more toward the south and then southeast as it rounds the western end of the ridge.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Iris is expected to remain east of Queensland.

Elsewhere over the South Pacific Ocean Tropical Cyclone Josie was swirling south of Fiji.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Tropical Storm Josie was located at latitude 21.1°S and longitude 178.1°E which put it about 185 miles (300 km) south of Suva, Fiji.  Josie was moving toward the south-southeast at 14 m.p.h. (22 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 40 m.p.h. (65 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 999 mb.