Adaptation lessons from Cyclone Tracy

TitleAdaptation lessons from Cyclone Tracy
Publication TypeReport

Project Page  Final Report

Year of Publication2010
AuthorsMason, M, Haynes, K
InstitutionNational Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
CityGold Coast
ISBN Number978-1-921609-13-8
Keywordscase study, catastrophe, Darwin, engineering, institutional, Northern Territory, NT, reconstruction, regulation, surveys, synthesis and integrative research

Executive summary

Key findings

1. The improved wind performance mandated in the construction of residential homes in cyclone-prone areas has proved effective, although there are concerns that decay and corrosion over time will reduce their performance under extreme wind loads.

2. Around the world, disaster losses from meteorological events are increasing and, to this point in time, these increases can be attributed to demographic changes – more people living in dangerous places with more to lose.

3. Global climate change may alter the frequency and intensity of future cyclonic activity, but the exact nature of these changes remains a difficult and as yet unsolved research question.

4. From public safety and policy perspectives, the most effective response to extreme winds, whatever their origin, is better building codes.

5. Evacuation should become a secondary consideration and, provided surge is not an issue, the primary focus during cyclonic events should be to ensure people are safely inside their homes or workplaces.

6. The desired level of wind performance of structures will always be a compromise between the likelihood of extreme winds and the cost of implementing the engineering improvements.

7. It is always possible for the design wind speeds to be exceeded and building failure to result, even if the code is scrupulously complied with.


1. Implementation of a lifetime inspection and maintenance program for buildings in cyclone regions should be considered. These inspections could be carried out at predefined times during a building’s life, or be implemented as mandated structural inspections at the point of sale.

2. Funding of a regular (approximately five yearly) review of cyclonic wind speed utilising up-to-date observational data and modelling techniques. These studies should report point and area location risks.

The National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) has engaged Risk Frontiers to investigate the adaptive capacity of the Australian building industry using the changes made in light of Tropical Cyclone Tracy as a case in point. This goal was achieved by a review of historic reports, data sets, books and scientific journals, and through interview sessions with significant figures in the adaptive process. The capacity of emergency management and insurance industries for adaptation is also briefly addressed in the appendixes to this report. 

Refereed DesignationRefereed