Expert reveals conditions needed for perfect storm

13th February 2018 2:00 PM
UPDATED 8:16 PM
WATCH OUT: A reader snapped this photo of Sunday's storm rolling into Yamanto. WATCH OUT: A reader snapped this photo of Sunday's storm rolling into Yamanto. Brooke Schmidt

A MELTING pot of conditions to create the perfect severe thunderstorm was concocted on Sunday afternoon and experts warn there is the potential for a repeat.

The city was lashed with rain and destructive winds on the weekend and while Monday's forecast storm fizzled out before it reached Ipswich, experts say there is the chance of showers and possibly severe gusty thunderstorms in the afternoon and evening today and later in the week.

University of Queensland scientist Joshua Soderholm specialises in severe thunderstorms, particularly in the south east region and says there is a melting pot of conditions needed to create the perfect storm.

His PhD specialises in storms, specifically south east Queensland and how the sea breeze drives severe thunderstorms.

Now he's working with a number of industry groups to improve thunderstorms warnings and better understand thunderstorm risks.

"South east Queensland is quite unique in the sense that we are a coastal environment and in a global context they don't get quite so many storms but historically south east Queensland gets a lot of storms so there are those two notions counter-acting each other," he said.

"We have a quite niche environment where we have lots of favourable ingredients for storms which is why we have so many such as the topography out west, the agriculture and a very supportive sea breeze which is quite warm, stable and is some cases make storms more likely."

He said the storms that lashed Ipswich on Sunday were formed in ideal storm conditions and there was the chance it could happen again before the week's out.

"We definitely have the potential for those storms to occur again but a few things have to go right. We need to have extra moisture, when the storms are up on the Darling Downs, you need to have quite an intense storm, you can't have a weak storm coming down and expect it to keep pushing through," he said.

"There needs to be reasonably strong winds at the surface too, that's important for a severe thunderstorm. Hail forms high up in the atmosphere where it's well below 0, usually around -25C. It makes a big difference if we have a lot of hot air at the surface, because the hail melts as it falls.

"On Sunday we had a very hot, dry air mass which melted all the hail and in the process of melting the hail, it cools down the air as it falls out of thunderstorms and that procured strong wind gusts."

He said storms with particularly gusty winds were common in hot weather.

He said in climates that were less dry and hot, for example in November in Ipswich, the hail had greater chance of making it to the surface.

"There as less hail and more strong winds. Gusty storms are more common on these dry hot days, because of that process of melting and evaporation cooling down the air from thunderstorms," he said.