NASA has released satellite imagery of what it says is the tropical low pressure designated System 91P building up in the Coral Sea, South Pacific Ocean.
The imagery was captured using Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on board NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite on March 24 and it appears from the photo that the System 91P is consolidating and strengthening. The image showed bands of thunderstorms spiraling into the low-level center of circulation.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (ABM) has posted a Watch Zone for the developing low pressure area that extends from Cape Tribulation to St. Lawrence including Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, and the Whitsunday Islands.
On March 24 at 8 a.m. EST/U.S. (10:00 p.m. AEST/Australia Eastern Standard Time), the ABM said that the tropical low had sustained winds near the center at of 24 knots (28 mph/45 kph). The low pressure area is located near 16.9 degrees South latitude and 151.9 degrees east longitude, about 650 kilometers east of Cairns and 600 kilometers east northeast of Townsville.
On Saturday, March 25 the low is expected to develop into a tropical cyclone and adopt a west-southwest track, bringing it towards the north Queensland coast. ABM said “Conditions are expected to favor the continued intensification of the system as it approaches the coast over the weekend and early next week.”
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that animated multi-spectral satellite imagery and a microwave image from the NOAA-18 polar orbiting satellite show curved banding wrapping into a rapidly developing low level circulation center.
Global computer models indicate development of a tropical cyclone is likely within 12 to 24 hours. Based on improved structure and favorable environmental conditions, the potential for the development of a significant tropical cyclone within the next 24 hours is high.
The ABM current forecast track takes the system toward the Townsville area of Queensland on March 28 as a tropical cyclone. Coastal residents should make preparations.