Researcher suggests Cyclone Marcia was a category 3, not 5

A large Norfolk Pine was sheared off at the base in Yeppoon during Cyclone Marcia narrowly missing nearby buildings.
A large Norfolk Pine was sheared off at the base in Yeppoon during Cyclone Marcia narrowly missing nearby buildings. Chris Ison

THE Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed the unique acceleration of Tropical Cyclone Marcia from Category 1 to 5 in record time.

Officials said it was the fastest progression from a low level cyclone to the most severe they could recall in Australia.

Senator Matt Canavan asked the officials about the cyclone at Senate estimates hearings in Canberra.

"Evidence was given that TC Marcia underwent 'extraordinary intensification' from Category 1 at 8am on Thursday, February 19 to Category 2 by 11am, Category 3 by 4pm, Category 4 by 6pm and finally Category 5 by 4am Friday before it struck the coast later that morning," Senator Canavan said.

BOM director of meteorology Dr Rob Vertessy, said while very strong, the cyclone was actually quite small, about half the size of an average cyclone, and more like the size of Tropical Cyclone Tracy, with a radius of about 75km.

Jennifer Morahasy, a CQU climate researcher told the Courier Mail that the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts of Tropical Cyclone Marcia were inaccurate.

She said the bureau had used computer modelling rather than early readings from weather stations to determine that Marcia was a category 5 cyclone, not a category 3.

Dr Morahasy said the warning should have been revised down to a category 3 given wind speeds recorded at Middle Percy Island were well below a category 5.

"It's important that the people of Yeppoon who think they've been through a category 5 know they've only been through a weak category 3,'' she said.

Bureau chief Rob Webb rejected the allegations, saying to suggest the bureau relied solely on modelling was incorrect.

Officials said the bureau would have access to significantly improved satellite information from July.


Topics:  cyclone cyclone marcia mackay natural disaster weather

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