Tropical Cyclone Jasper is expected to become a severe tropical cyclone overnight, reaching category 4 intensity by Friday.
Situated 1430km north east of Cairns this morning, the Bureau of Meteorology says Jasper has already strengthened to a category 2 system.
The cyclone is expected to take a south-south west track into the Coral Sea.
During the weekend, BOM says Tropical Cyclone Jasper is likely to weaken a little, but it will still be a tropical cyclone as it tracks towards the north Queensland coast early next week.
BOM says the the region north of Mackay is currently at the highest risk of impact.
Despite the arrival of Jasper, BOM says this year's tropical cyclone season forecast has been influenced by the current El Nino event in the tropical Pacific Ocean.
"In El Nino years, the first cyclone to make landfall on the Australian coast typically occurs later than normal, around the second week of January," BOM says.
"This is compared to all years where the date of the first tropical cyclone to make landfall over Australia is typically in early January."
BOM says the frequency of tropical cyclone formation in the Australian region has decreased in recent decades.
"Since 2000, the average number of tropical cyclones that form in a season has reduced to nine," BOM says.
"However, the output of the seasonal forecast uses the long-term average of 11 per season."