REVEALED: Ipswich 'intense storm hot spot': new study finds

Dr Joshua Soderholm ... undertook a two-year field campaign to help develop his thunderstorm map.
Dr Joshua Soderholm ... undertook a two-year field campaign to help develop his thunderstorm map. University of Queensland

IPSWICH is officially a 'storm hot spot' with new research showing the region is home to south-east Queensland's most intense thunderstorm activity. 

University of Queensland researcher Dr Joshua Soderholm has measured many individual storms in high detail to understand what was happening and how to help people in the affected areas prepare for the wild weather. 

His study has identified Springfield, Ipswich, Boonah, Beaudesert, Esk and Jimboomba as the south-east's most intense areas for thunderstorms as they track towards the coastline.

The analysis of 19 years' worth of data, combined with two-years field research, shows thunderstorms affecting south-east Queensland generally form in two areas; the Boonah-Beaudesert region and the Esk region.

"The corridor south-west of Brisbane is a hotspot for intense summer storms," Dr Soderholm said. 

He said the most significant hailstorms were "severe multicells" which were more common in south-east Queensland than supercells.

"Topography plays a big role in the movement of storms; they often struggle to (move past) mountains.  "Storms need air to keep building and mountains block the supply of air."

Dr Soderholm's radar-derived hailstorm climatology of Brisbane and surrounds chart.
Dr Soderholm's radar-derived hailstorm climatology of Brisbane and surrounds chart. University of Queensland

He said the relatively mountain-free stretch between Boonah and Brisbane gave storms a good track to make it out to the coast, hence why storms that form in the Boonah area and make it to Brisbane are often more intense.

For residents in the firing line, Dr Soderholm's best advice was to keep an eye on the radar, particularly on hot, sticky humid days. 

He said Sunday's storm was intensified by very deep humidity moving off the ocean which helped the storm to intensify as it moved towards Ipswich. 

"Storms feed off surface air and if there is a lot of moisture that helps it develop more rain, and in this case, more hail."

Dr Soderholm said frequent thunderstorm activity over western south-east Queensland was often associated with sea breeze activity providing additional lift and moisture.  

"The sea breezes combine with hot air from western agricultural regions in layers, much like the layers of a cake, leading to a very favourable atmosphere for storms over the coast," he said.  

Dr Soderholm's field research included Australia's first mobile weather radar, weather balloons and quadcopters to get close to storms and collect data, to provide a more accurate understanding of south-east Queensland thunderstorms.    



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