Storm tide inundation

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Key finding

Storm tide inundation events continue to impact the coast, however, no severe events were recorded for human settlements for 2012-2015.

Inundation by storm tide—an abnormal elevation of the sea level over normal tide level caused by severe weather—is a natural hazard.

Cyclones in central and northern Queensland, and low pressure systems or east coast lows in southern Queensland, typically cause storm tides. Queensland’s coast is highly vulnerable to storm tide inundation: low sandy landforms dominate much of the coast. While the impacts on coastal ecosystems can seem catastrophic, the systems recover and coastal land forms may actually build as sand deposits are driven onshore.

Storm tides can be destructive for human settlements. Large areas of major urban centres of Cairns, Townsville and Mackay are at risk of storm tide inundation.

Since 2012, Queensland has experienced several severe storm tides associated with cyclones.

Cyclone Marcia—a category 5 cyclone—formed in February 2015. It was notable for a maximum storm surge of about 2m at Port Alma but because of the short duration and coincidence with low tide the impact was a storm tide that only just reached the highest astronomical tide level and 0.3m higher at Rosslyn Bay. In combination with large waves peaking at 3.5–4m between Mackay and the Capricorn coast, some coastal communities were severely impacted.

In comparison, Cyclone Oswald, which formed in January 2013, impacted the coast from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Gold Coast as a category 1 cyclone and severe storm. The slow movement and moderately severe winds generated a persistent storm tide and powerful waves along the coast for over a week. Coasts in South East Queensland were severely eroded by the combination of the longer term elevation in water levels and large waves.

Major regional centres vulnerable to a 1 in 100 year storm tide inundation water level have mapping available through the relevant regional council web sites.

More information:

Indicator: Coastal hazards – storm tide inundation incidences

Major storm tide inundation for 2012–2015.

Download data from Queensland Government data