Climate-driven changes in tropical cyclone intensity shape dune activity on Earth's largest sand island

Noam Levin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


In this study historical aerial photos and detailed climatic time series are used to show the geomorphological consequences of a significant decrease in tropical cyclone frequency and intensity in eastern Australia since the early 1980s, leading to rapid dune stabilization on Earth's largest sand island and a World Heritage Site, Fraser Island, Australia. It is shown that cyclone frequency and intensity significantly declined in eastern Australia (south of 20°S) since the early 1980s, corresponding with the shift to a positive phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (in 1977) and an increased frequency of ENSO events since 1982-83. Using historical aerial photos and remote sensing techniques it is shown that most of Fraser Island's transgressive dune fields were advancing inland during the period between 1948 and 1982, and that tropical cyclones in that period were strong enough to initiate small blow outs (< 1. ha). However, the decline in sand drift potential by wind since 1982 resulted in the contraction of the area of Fraser Island's dune fields, at an average rate of 0.5% of their area per year.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Aerial photos
  • Coastal dunes
  • Drift potential
  • El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
  • Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO)
  • Tropical cyclones


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