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Environment, Science

TALENT ALERT: Cyclone Kirrily due to make landfall within 24 hours

CMC 7 mins read

Wednesday 24th of Jan 2024


The following experts are available for comment on the weather patterns, likely flooding and insurance and health risks as Cyclone Kirrily bears down on Queensland. The cyclone is forecast to cross the Queensland coast Thursday night between Cardwell and Bowen (including Townsville) as a Category 2 storm. Impacts including damaging winds are likely from tonight for coastal and island communities, with a high risk of serious flooding in the coming days. Cyclones forming against the backdrop of climate change can be more destructive. While every cyclone is different, there is a trend towards higher wind speeds, more rainfall, slower movement, and retaining strength for longer upon reaching land - all factors that can make them more dangerous.



Rick Threlfall, meteorologist – cyclone behaviour

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski – disaster insurance expert

James Stuart Expert Hydrologist possible flooding outcomes

Dr Jean Renouf community response and preparedness

Dr Karl Mallon climate science around cyclones

Dr Nicole Sleeman Cairns GP human health risks

Peta Bulling, Australian Conservation Foundation risks to wildlife


More background and quotes below:




Rick Threlfall Company Director and Senior Meteorologist at Metops Weather

Location: Brisbane, QLD


Rick is a professional meteorologist with 22 years of global experience in weather forecasting. Rick has led teams through a number of significant weather events, delivering a range of meteorological services that have been crucial to many industries' operations, ranging from specialist briefings to government and media agencies during severe weather events, to assisting airlines and the resources sector to achieve safe and profitable operations.


Rick Threlfall said: "The rapid intensification of cyclones has become particularly noticeable and concerning in recent years. I was shocked by how rapidly tropical cyclone Marcia intensified in February 2015, increasing from a category 2 cyclone to a category 4 severe tropical cyclone in about 12 hours. In comparison, most cyclones in the Australian region only strengthen by about 1 category every 24 hours. Another worrying trend for Australia is the increase in rainfall intensity associated with cyclones and tropical lows. The remnants of tropical cyclone Jasper brought record-breaking rainfall to northeast Queensland, with some locations receiving over 600mm in 12 hours. The science tells us that in a warming world, we can expect a higher proportion of cyclones to become more intense and for rainfall intensity to increase as well."




Professor Paula Jarzabkowski Disaster insurance expert, School of Business, University of Queensland 

Location: Brisbane, QLD (on holiday from Jan 26)


Professor Paula Jarzabkowski is a global expert in the public-private mechanisms to address the insurance protection gap financially and reduce the underlying risk, and she is ranked in the top 1% of scholars in Economics and Business. She can speak to the insurance protection gap on multiple perils including climate change and major weather events such as bushfires, cyclones and floods; she can give comment on the financial protection and resilience to disaster in both advanced and developing economies; and can give insights on how insurance markets underpin the economy, including mortgages, credit and lending. Paula maintains strong links to industry through a range of advisory roles including with the OECD, Lloyd's of London and Pool RE. 


Professor Paula Jarzabkowski said: “Under climate change, cyclones are increasingly associated with damage from excess rainfall as much as from wind damage. This really compounds the economic losses, making the economic recovery more challenging, as there can be both flood and wind damage to pay for. In particular, sometimes the wind component of the cyclone might be insured but the flood arising might not, depending upon the insurance contract clauses. Or people downstream of the cyclone might get flooding effects for which they are uninsured. These complex ’secondary perils and secondary losses’ are making disaster insurance more fraught and helping to drive up prices or increase unavailability of insurance”




James Stuart - Expert Hydrologist, Managing Director at Climate Resilience

Location: Brisbane, QLD


James has significant experience in operational and management roles planning for, and responding to, some of Australia's most extreme natural hazard events since 2009, including two Category 5 cyclones. While Queensland Flood warning Manager at the Bureau, he issued forecasts and warnings for every catchment in the State.More recently, James has founded Climate Resilience to assist in integrating natural hazards into risk, governance, and corporate frameworks, including financial disclosure.


James Stuart said: "In broad terms we can expect most of the heavier rain to be on the southern side of a cyclone when it comes from the Coral Sea. Where Cyclone Kirrily is forecast to cross the coast, we can expect coastal catchments such as the Don and Pioneer Rivers to see heavy rains on Thursday and Friday, with parts of larger catchments, such as the Fitzroy and Burdekin, picking up significant totals into the weekend. Rivers in the region will respond quickly given the January rainfall to date, meaning water levels may rise quickly during the next intense rain event. After the crossing, the system will lose strength quickly and continue inland as a tropical low delivering significant rains to other areas well into next week.

"There are several dams in the region. Some, such as Peter Faust have significant capacity, whilst others such as Queensland largest, Burdekin Falls Dam are almost at full water supply capacity, with a spill there all but certain. Dams are designed to spill and dam owners keep in close contact with the BOM, and other agencies during such events. The public in these areas should keep up to date with the BOM's Severe Weather Warning Services, and take the advice of the local authorities in their area"




Dr Jean Renouf founder and chair of Plan C, academic at Southern Cross University and on-call firefighter  

Location: Lismore, NSW. 


Jean can speak to community response and resilience efforts. Jean runs community training on disaster preparedness and response to extreme weather events such as bushfires, floods and heatwaves. The training covers food, water and energy security, emergency communications, community-building, psychological first aid, and more. He can talk about how best to prepare and adapt communities across Australia who may be faced with worsening climate change.


Dr Jean Renouf said: "In my time working with flood-affected communities across Queensland, I've witnessed firsthand the profound resilience and spirit of our people. The devastation wrought by cyclones and flooding is more than a statistic; it's a story of communities banding together in the face of adversity. At Plan C, we are committed to supporting communities as extreme weather events increase due to a warming climate, not just in immediate response, but in the long journey towards recovery and stronger resilience. Our experiences on the ground reinforce our belief that, despite the initial shock and trauma of these climate fuelled disasters, communities possess the strength to not only recover but to emerge even more resilient and united than before."




Dr Karl Mallon, Founder and Director of Science and Technology, XDI (Cross Dependency Initiative).

Location: Currently in Europe can do phone and zoom interviews  


Dr Karl Mallon is the Co-founder and Director of Science and Technology at XDI (Cross Dependency Initiative). With a background in both Physics and Mechanical Engineering, Karl has worked in climate change mitigation, policy and technical analysis since 1991. 


Dr Karl Mallon said: “Warm waters create and sustain tropical cyclones and modelling of warming sea temperatures suggest tropical cyclones will start reaching further south. This means areas previously outside of cyclone zones will be the firing line but, unlike northern Australia, these areas lack the infrastructure designed to withstand such extreme weather events. At the same time, other research suggests an increase in the peak intensity of winds in regions already experiencing tropical cyclones.

“Limiting carbon emissions is happening too slowly to avoid many climate impacts, so the regions we're identifying need to prepare for winds and high seas of an intensity they have never experienced before.  They should seriously consider adopting higher building standards typical of northern Australia as soon as possible, because transitioning the built environment to cope with the wider reach of cyclones will take many years." 




Dr Nicole Sleeman - GP and member of Doctors for the Environment Australia

Location: Cairns, QLD


Nicole advocates for urgent action on climate change and for the protection and restoration of the earth's natural systems, for the sake of human health. She can discuss the impacts of flooding and extreme weather on physical and mental health outcomes in the context of Far North QLD. 


Dr Nicole Sleeman said: “The health implications of cyclones and the associated flooding events are wide-ranging and can have lasting impacts. Firstly there are the direct health impacts, namely injury and death due to drowning, falls, exposure to fallen electrical wires, etc, as well as bites and injuries caused by displaced wild animals, such as snakes, spiders, reptiles, and mice and rats. Also, homes and other structures are being destroyed, which means people can be without sufficient shelter, with many people having to rely on emergency centres or friends and relatives for shelter during and after these events.

"You then have the secondary effects of flooding destroying roads and access to basic necessities, meaning health-compromised individuals may not have access to essential medicines, and if blackouts persist, lack of refrigeration can affect people’s food stores and their ability to keep medications chilled.

“As the climate warms, and the destructive powers and flooding associated with cyclones increase, we will see more communities being negatively affected, which will have a knock-on effect on the health system as admissions increase as more people will require medical care. To limit the ever-increasing threat that extreme weather events pose to people’s health, we need to rapidly reduce our carbon emissions by leaving our fossil fuels in the ground, and ensure we are transitioning to clean energy generation as quickly as possible.”




Australian Conservation Foundation’s nature campaigner (Ms) Peta Bulling said: “In the wake of Tropical Cyclone Jasper, Daintree locals saw thousands of reef fish, plus tropical birds, wallabies, echidnas and other animals washed up dead on Far North Queensland beaches.

“Wildlife in Australia is already under pressure from land clearing and invasive species; we have the highest rate of deforestation in the developed world, and the highest rate of mammal extinction in the world. More frequent and extreme weather events, driven by climate change, increase that pressure.

“We need resilient ecosystems and resilient species populations to give our unique wildlife the best chance of survival as we work through the challenges of the climate crisis.  

“Nature is amazingly resilient when given the opportunity, but governments need to invest in restoring and strengthening the health of our environment to give it the opportunity to overcome ever-worsening extreme weather events.  

“With the rewriting of our national nature laws the Albanese government has an opportunity to strengthen protection for nature and address the urgent threat to nature from climate change and extreme weather.” 


Location: Canberra, ACT


For interviews, please contact Sean Kennedy - 0447 121 378 -

Contact details:

Sean Kennedy - 0447 121 378 -

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