Cyclone Yasi

February 03, 2011

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How Do Cyclones Form and What Characteristics Do We Need To Be Concerned About?

Tropical cyclones draw energy from warm seas and can only develop where sea temperature is 26°C and above. Cyclones can only become major storms when the temperature is 28°C. Cyclones can only form in a specific location. They form in a band around the earths surface in between 8° and 20° North of the equator. Converging trade winds at this point meet up and warm air is forced to rise (spatial interaction). As the water vapour filled air rises into cooler temperatures the water condenses, forming these massive storm clouds. Trade winds arrive in this area on a curved path because of the rotation of the earth and these curved wind patterns form the start of a cyclone. Cyclones produce storm force winds, torrential rain, massive pressure falls and storm surges that have drastic effects on the environment.

Yasi's terrible power.flv

What Was the Pathway of Yasi and How Did This Affect the Cyclone?

Cyclone Yasi formed 330 km Northwest of Fiji. Yasi then travelled across the Coral Sea and landed on mainland Australia at 12 am on the 3rd of Frebruary 2011. Cyclone Yasi travelled over great masses of water with little interruption from landmasses. This meant that the whole time it was travelling towards Australia it was building up strength, energy and mass. Cyclone Yasi travelled about 2396 kilometres over water before it reached mainland Australia and so it had plenty of time to gather its forces and attack Queensland with all the force it could.

This map demonstrates Cyclone Yasi's MOVEMENT.

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What Were The Characteristics of Yasi?

Cyclone Yasi was among the most powerful cyclones to hit the Queensland coast. The eye of the storm was 35 kilometres wide and when this passed over them, many people believed the storm was over. In Mission beach, where Yasi fist hit, winds were estimated to have reached 290 kilometres an hour. Also at Mission Beach, 470 millilitres of rainfall was recorded in 24 hours. In Melbourne we generally get about 50 millilitres during February. Cyclone Yasi affected Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory as well as the Solomon Island, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Although it was a category 5 cyclone it only caused one fatality. Yasi’s estimated damage cost is $3,000,000,000. Yasi hit Australia first on the coast (as it had to come to the mainland from the sea). This had devastating affects on the people of Queensland as most of Australia is populated around the coast (spatial association and distribution) and so the areas around Mission beach were hit with all the strength of the storm.

This map shows Cyclone Yasi super-imposed over a map of the USA, demonstrating the SCALE of the storm.

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How Were the Natural and Cultural Landscapes Affected by Yasi?

You can only imagine the colossal impact the 290km/h winds had on the forests and natural landscapes in Australia. Trees were ripped from the earth by their roots and leaves were forced from their homes (the trees) by the howling winds. Luckily, the forests of the tropics (tropical regions) have, over the years, adapted to the weather conditions of their environment and are somewhat prepared when a cyclone hits their home. Trees have shooting plants that remain dormant while the tree is healthy and spring to life when disaster strikes, compensating for the holes made in the canopy. The loss of trees also resulted in the loss of homes for many native species, some of which are endangered. In regards to the cultural landscapes effected by the storm, houses where blown down and torn apart by the ferocious winds. Houses were left without power and many became uninhabitable after the storm. The boats in the water were blown from their jetty's forced in great clumps against the shore as shown in the image below (spatial change over time).

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Two Effects of Yasi

Cyclone Yasi ripped through Queensland and so ripped through Queenslands banana plantations. Yasi destroyed the year’s crop of bananas and so, due to the lack of bananas, there were few to sell and the prices on these were extremely high. Most banana plantations are in Queensland and the north of Australia (spatial association) because of the tropical climates. This meant that not many people bought bananas because they were too expensive and so very little money went to banana farmers.

Yasi destroyed many, many homes and left lots of people without places to live. People camped out in shopping centres and schools during the storm but afterwards, when they discovered that their home had been reduced to a pile of nothing. They were left in a situation that was difficult, especially for families with young children. The Salvation Army assisted many families during this time and continues, even six months afterwards, to help families get their lives back on track. During the cyclone Salvos helped by providing meals and getting victims to evacuation centres but afterwards they employed trauma councellors, made financial councellors available and operated a 24-hour disaster hotline.

What Changes for the Region and for Wider Australia Have Occurred Due To Cyclone Yasi?

Following Cyclone Yasi, new rules and regulations were put in place regarding the building of structures and the placement of structures in Queensland. Buildings must now be made of certain materials, roof cladding, tie downs and bracing. They must have stronger windows and doors and debris protection. A new building must be approved before being built and can only be built after undergoing wind load and wind speed tests. As I have stated in the previous segment, banana prices rose significantly due to the destruction of banana plantations. This pricing rose all over Australia and people soon realized noticed the disappearance of the humble banana. Sugar crops were also destroyed and effected the prices across the country and the world, but by a smaller amount than that of the banana. The region’s appearance changed drastically too, but in more of a temporary way. Houses were flattened, trees ripped from the grounds and entire regions flooded.

This map shows the change in the region where Cyclone Yasi hit. The colour of the land and the ocean change dramatically.

Spatial change over time

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Yasi: How It Unfolded. (n.d.). The Australian. Retrieved May 13, 2007, from

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Yasi's terrible power.flv - YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved August 11, 2013, from

2011, t. 3. (n.d.). Welcome to the Australian Cyclones information site. Welcome to the Australian Cyclones information site. Retrieved August 11, 2013, from

Salvos: Standing Together Six Months On. (n.d.). The Salvation Army. Retrieved November 13, 2007, from