Recently increased tropical cyclone activity and inferences concerning coastal erosion and inland hydrological regimes in New Zealand and Eastern Australia

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For the area bounded by 0-35~ latitude and 105~176 longitude a significant increase of tropical cyclone frequency occurred about 1954-55 and this regime persisted throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Probably this frequency increase was accompanied by an increase of cyclonic storm intensity. It was related to an atmospheric pressure regime change over Australasia which commenced in early 1954. Tropical cyclones produce large rainfall amounts and strong winds which generate high-energy sea waves. Severe damage can result on land and at sea. How- ever, much recently recorded damage has resulted from extra-tropical cyclones. Therefore it is postulated that extra-tropical cyclones also increased in frequency after the mid 1950s and that both types of cyclone contributed to a significant increase in total storminess. In eastern Australia and around both islands of New Zealand a major coastal regime change occurred in the 1950s and has persisted to the present;erosion has been the dominant process. In eastern Australia there was a significant increase in the magnitude of river floods after the late 1940s. After the mid 1950s most of the North Island of New Zealand experienced the wettest years of this century which caused large closed lakes to reach the highest levels for several centuries. Throughout the North Island the majority of the greatest recorded stream floods of this century have occurred during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. And in forested mountain areas of the North Island the average rate of erosion and alluvial sedi- mentation increased markedly after the mid 1950s. The regime change of each natural phenomenon is explicable in terms of increased storminess since the mid 1950s. Consequently it is hypothesised that the coastal and inland environmental regime changes discussed were either initiated or accentuated after the mid 1950s as a result of increased activity of both tropical and extra-tropical cyclones. Some further studies, necessary to test the links in the overall hypothesis, are mentioned.

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  • Patrick J. Grant

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