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By Ashleigh Stevenson, 22 Oct 2021, 9:41 AM UTC

How common are tornadoes in Queensland and is it a sign of things to come?

How common are tornadoes in Queensland and is it a sign of things to come?
Source: ABC
It's been a week of wild weather for eastern Queensland, with severe storms, record-breaking giant hail, and three tornadoes. On Friday morning, a tornado briefly touched down near Brisbane Airport as a supercell storm moved through, causing some damage and delaying and diverting flights. The cell also brought hail and intense rainfall ? with 101 millimetres recorded at Luggage Point in an hour. It comes after two other tornadoes were observed on Monday as part of severe thunderstorms ? one at Pittsworth in the Darling Downs, and another at Bracewell near Gladstone. How rare is it? It was rare to see evidence of three tornadoes in a week in Queensland, particularly near populated areas, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said. But it does not necessarily mean they are happening more frequently, as many occur in remote areas and therefore go unreported. BOM senior forecaster Kimba Wong said it was not "completely uncommon for tornadoes to occur with these sorts of really intense storms". "But they quite often occur in sparsely populated areas of Queensland, so evidence of them actually happening is rarely reported." What causes them? Tornadoes usually occur with severe thunderstorms, mostly supercells. But they also need some other key ingredients to form. "Generally, tornadoes are driven by very strong winds but also wind shear ? so you need that sort of rotation in the low-level winds quite often associated with thunderstorms when they occur," Ms Wong said. "You also need quite a lot of instability in the atmosphere to get that rotation going and those really, really strong updrafts that lead to the sort of tornado genesis." The BOM said wind shear is defined as a change in wind direction and/or speed over a vertical or horizontal distance, which encourages the atmosphere to rotate. Can they be dangerous? They definitely can be. Ms Wong said the three Queensland experienced this week had little impact due to their "transient nature". "Certainly, if you get some stronger ones coming through they can cause very significant damage so not to be taken lightly," Ms Wong said. Will we see more this year? It can't be ruled out. There's no defined tornado season in Australia, but they more commonly occur in late spring to early summer. "This spring has already shown that it's off to a big start in terms of storm activity across Queensland and into New South Wales and elsewhere in Australia as well, so it probably couldn't be ruled out," Ms Wong said. "It is very difficult to pinpoint exactly where these tornadoes may occur. "Even when severe thunderstorms are occurring, if a tornado does occur associated with those storms, they can be very transient and short-lived in nature and hard to pinpoint unless we see those reports coming through."