Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tropical Cyclone 16P Forms Over Gulf of Carpentaria

After a quiet period of several weeks in the tropics Tropical Cyclone 16P formed over the Gulf of Carpentaria on Tuesday.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday the center of Tropical Cyclone 16P was located at latitude 16.4°S and longitude 140.3°E which put it about 75 miles (120 km) east-northeast of Mornington Island and about 115 miles (185 km) southwest of Kowanyama, Australia.  Tropical Cyclone 16P was moving toward the east-southeast at 12 m.p.h. (18 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 996 mb.

An upper level ridge persisted over the Gulf of Carpentaria during the past few days.  The upper level ridge generated upper level divergence which enhanced rising motion and supported the development of thunderstorms.  Eventually, the upper level divergence pumped out enough mass to allow the surface pressure to decrease and the thunderstorms began to consolidate around a low level center.  The system developed enough organization on Tuesday to be classified as a tropical cyclone.

The organization of Tropical Cyclone 16P improved on Tuesday.  Spiral bands of thunderstorms wrapped around a low level center.  Strong thunderstorms near the center of circulation generated upper level divergence, especially to the east of the tropical cyclone.

The environment is favorable for intensification as long as the center of circulation remains over water.  The Sea Surface Temperatures are near 31°C in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.  An upper level ridge to the east of the tropical cyclone is generating some vertical wind shear, but the ridge is also enhancing upper level divergence.  The primary inhibiting factor is the proximity of the center of circulation to land.  Tropical Cyclone 16P could intensify further during the next 12 hours before it makes landfall.

The upper level ridge is steering Tropical Cyclone 16P toward the southeast coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria.  On its anticipated track Tropical cyclone 16P is expected to make landfall in Queensland near the mouth of the Gilbert River in about 12 hours.  The potential track after landfall is much more uncertain.  Some guidance suggests that the tropical cyclone could move across the Cape York peninsula toward the Coral Sea.  Other guidance suggests that the tropical cyclone could turn back toward the northwest and move back out into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Although Tropical Cyclone 16P is likely to cause minor wind damage, it could produce locally heavy rainfall and flooding when it moves over northeastern Queensland.