The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting fewer cyclones in the season ahead, but has warned research predicts a strengthening in the intensity of the weather systems. Based on previous El Nino years, and with one currently in effect, the first cyclone to cross an Australian coast typically occurs later in the season than usual. As a result, this year’s forecast for the North West predicts a 75 per cent chance of fewer tropical cyclones than average. Bureau senior meteorologist Joe Courtney said although there may be fewer systems this year, a variety of factors influence the formation of Cyclones and research suggested the frequency of more severe systems forming in the future is expected to rise. “Those that do form have a greater chance of reaching a higher intensity,” he said. However, Mr Courtney doesn’t expect cyclonic movement around the North-West coast to change dramatically despite the changing climate. “For the Pilbara and Kimberley regions, there’s probably no evidence at this stage to suggest we’ll have longer cyclone seasons,” he said. “As a general rule, if they start stronger at the coast, it lasts longer inland, but there’s no reason yet to suggest why they could last stronger inland.” With the Exmouth Gulf to Port Hedland, the most cyclone-prone area in Australia, the Pilbara is no stranger to damaging weather, but that doesn’t mean more isn’t being done to prepare for these events. The Department of Fire and Emergency’s superintendent for the Pilbara Darryl Ray urged all residents to continue to stay vigilant and have a cyclone plan in place. “Last season was a stark reminder of how a cyclone can impact a community – we saw record-breaking winds in parts of the Pilbara and record-breaking flooding in the Kimberley region,” he said. “If you are new to the region, you should familiarise yourself with the impacts of cyclones, warning systems and responsibilities to keep safe.” With more than 630 volunteers and 17 trained staff ready to manage emergencies in the Pilbara, Mr Ray said he was confident the community was ready to deal with whatever is thrown at it. “In October, DFES personnel and staff from the Bureau of Meteorology visited towns and remote communities in the Pilbara to promote community preparedness,” he said. Residents are encouraged to visit the DFES website for more information on how to make a cyclone-ready plan and for tips on maintaining your property.