Extreme weather

Flood plumes and cyclones hit the Great Barrier Reef over the 2010-11 summer, causing a range of flow-on effects to the marine environment and adjacent coastal communities. The results of assessments of the physical damage to coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are presented in GBRMPA's report - Impacts of tropical cyclone Yasi on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority worked with key partners to implement the Extreme Weather Response Program to assess the impact on the environment, communities and industries.

This information will be used to inform industry actions and management responses, and improve our understanding of extreme weather that is predicted to be more frequent under climate change.

Increased frequency of intense rainfall and increased intensity of severe cyclones poses a greater risk of damage to the Reef and decreases the time available for recovery between disturbances.

It's important to understand how this impacts the long-term health of the Reef.


The summer of 2010-11 was the second wettest on record for Australia, and for southeast Queensland rainfall was 300-400 per cent higher than normal.

This unusually intense rainfall caused extensive flooding in many coastal areas of southern Queensland, including several Great Barrier Reef catchments.

A large expanse of the inshore Great Barrier Reef Region south of Mackay was exposed to persistent flood plumes from the Fitzroy, Burnett and Mary Rivers.


Cyclone Yasi, one of the largest and most powerful cyclones to affect Australia since records began, crossed the Queensland coast near Mission Beach on 3 February 2011.

The coast and adjacent areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park were exposed to wind gusts up to 285 km/h.

The cyclone's wind boundaries were extensive, with gale force winds affecting 26 per cent (89,090 km2) and destructive winds affecting 13 per cent (45,768 km2) of the Marine Park.

Cyclone Yasi had been preceded by cyclone Anthony, which crossed the coast near Bowen on 30 January 2011 as a Category 2 storm.