ABDUL WAHAB KHAN | NT
The Arabian Sea has turned into a ‘cyclone hotspot’, churning out 15 cyclones in the last five years. Two more are still brewing.
The cyclones brewed in the Arabian Sea since 2014 have given out a pattern: of the 15 cyclones formed in the sea, 11 were of severe category indicating that the intensity of cyclones in the region has also been on the rise.
Fortunately, these cyclones have spared Goa’s coast from direct impact;
they moved straight and skirted the coast bringing squally wind and heavy rainfall without causing major devastation.
According to the IMD statistics, tropical cyclone activity peaks during pre- and post-monsoon seasons in May and November. More storms brew during the post-monsoon season.
The year 2014 saw formation of two cyclones. ‘Nilofar’ intensified into an extremely severe cyclonic storm late October and brought unseasonal rains in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. Cyclone ‘Nanauk’ formed in June that year checking monsoon fury.
There were three cyclones in 2015: ‘Chapala’ and ‘Megh’ intensified into extremely severe cyclonic storms in October and November; ‘Ashoba’ formed in June was also a cyclonic storm.
In December 2016, cyclone ‘Vardah’ turned into a very severe cyclonic storm which was the fourth cyclonic storm as well as the most intense one of that year, which made a landfall in Chennai.
In December 2017, ‘Ockhi’, a very severe cyclonic storm, wreaked havoc in south India claiming over 20 lives in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In Goa, beach shacks were hit by high tides after the cyclonic storm came closest to the Goa coast.
In 2018, cyclones continued to gain intensity: four
cyclones formed that year: ‘Sagar’, ‘Mekunu’, ‘Luban’, ‘Gaja’; except for Sagar, all cyclones were of ‘very’ to ‘severe’ intensity cyclones.
Cyclone ‘Gaja’ made landfall between Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in November, while ‘Mekunu’ made a landfall between south Oman and southeast Yemen coasts in May.
‘Luban’ was very severe cyclone which made landfall in northern Yemen in October.
The cyclones are more prone to the Bay of Bengal as its surface temperature is higher than that of the Arabian Sea. However, the frequency and occurrence of cyclones has almost been same in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal in the last five years.
In the last five years, 15 cyclones brewed in the Arabian Sea and the number will go up as two more are brewing at present.
On the other hand, 16 cyclones formed in the Bay of Bengal in the last five years.
An IMD scientist explained that the temperature increase over the surface of seas has alarmingly amplified the ‘waxing’ trend of cyclogenesis (birth of storms).
A low pressure area is the first step towards formation of a cyclone that occurs due to continuous warming of the sea which is responsible for an increase in the severity of tropical cyclones.
The year 2019 has already seen four cyclones in the Arabian Sea: ‘Vayu’, ‘Hikaa’, ‘Kyarr’ and ‘Maha’, which have been from ‘very severe cyclonic storm to super cyclone’.
It began with cyclone ‘Vayu’ in June which was classified as a very severe cyclonic storm by the IMD with wind speeds of 150 kmph. This cyclone was blamed for the delay of monsoon onset over parts of the country.
‘Vayu’ was followed by cyclone ‘Hikaa’ in September, which was categorised as a very severe cyclonic storm. The cyclone moved in the northwest direction making a landfall in Oman.
The most recent cyclone ‘Kyarr’ was the super-cyclone that developed in October with wind speed of 250 kmph in the Arabian Sea after a gap of 12 years. The super-cyclone brought very heavy rain along the west coast during that time of the year when it usually does not rain with such an intensity. ‘Kyarr’ made a landfall in Gujarat.
Also, extremely severe cyclonic storm ‘Maha’ developed over the Arabian Sea.
There have been 31 cyclones in the last five years in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, of which 20 have been severe cyclones indicating an increase in frequency and severity of cyclonic storms in the recent years.
‘Fani’ is the most recent very severe cyclonic storm, which is the only second severe cyclone in the last 118 years to form in the Bay of Bengal. The cyclone took a toll on life and property in Odisha. This has been followed by ‘Bulbul’ which also caused devastation in southern parts of Gangetic West Bengal in the Sundarbans.
The IMD had called as ‘rarest of rare’ occurrences the formation of two very severe cyclones – ‘Titli’ and ‘Luban’ – in October last year.