Monday, October 17, 2011

Australia weather bureau says country faces more than 12 cyclones 2011-12

* Oil, gas, as well as coal and iron ore mines may be at risk

* Another La Nina weather pattern brewing to fuel storms

SYDNEY, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Australia faces an above-average number of cyclones over the coming storm season, meteorologists said on Monday, threatening new devastation after massive floods swamped homes, as well as destroying crops and crippling mining earlier this year.

The northwest offshore oil and gas field and coastal iron ore operations face a 65 percent chance of being hit by more than seven cyclones, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in its 2011-12 tropical cyclone season forecast.

Northeast Australia, where coal mining was crippled last year due to heavy flooding partly generated by cyclones, also faces a 65 percent chance of more than the average of three to four cyclones this season, said BOM.

In total, Australia's north may be hit by more than 12 cyclones due to neutral to borderline La Nina weather conditions, which bring wet weather to the western Pacific, fuelling tropical storms over the ocean.

"Historically, these conditions have favoured an above average number of cyclones in the Australian region," said BOM.

Australia's cyclone season is between November and April.

Natural disasters including floods and cyclones cut economic activity by 0.75 percentage points in 2010-11, wiping A$1.75 billion from revenue across 2010-11 and 2011-12, Treasurer Wayne Swan said.

Australia's third-largest city Brisbane was inundated with floodwaters and flooding across an area as big as France and Germany forced major miners to declare force majeure and damaged large swaths of croplands, including the key sugar crop.

Australia, one of the world's largest coal exporters, accounts for about two-thirds of the global coking coal trade, with around 90 percent of that coming from Queensland state.

Coking or metallurgical coal is used for steelmaking, with the bulk of Australian exports to China.

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