Alarming rise in cyclones around India - GulfToday

Alarming rise in cyclones around India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Alarming rise in cyclones around India

The 2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season is one of the most active North Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record.

Data released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) reveals that the number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal has increased by 32% in the last five years. Compared to previous decades, the last 10 years have also seen an 11% rise in these extreme occurrences. As many as 14 cyclones formed over the north Indian Ocean in the past 23 months.

An analysis from The Times of India suggests that seven cyclones formed in both 2018 and 2019 – the highest since 1985, which also witnessed the same number of cyclones. Data also reveals that six cyclones intensified into severe cyclonic storms in both 2018 and 2019, which is the highest since 1976, when seven such storms were recorded.

IMD data shows that the 2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season is one of the most active North Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. The season has featured seven cyclonic storms, with a record-breaking six of them intensifying to very severe cyclonic storms and one to super cyclonic storm, Kyarr. This is an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation. The North Indian Ocean cyclone season has no official bounds, but cyclones tend to form between April and December, with two peaks in activity in May and November. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the northern Indian Ocean.

This year, the first to hit India was Cyclone Pabuk, as it formed around the country in the north Indian Ocean region just over the Andaman Sea in January 2019. Then came the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani, which created tremendous devastation, particularly in Odisha, during late April-early May. Odisha is still coping with the havoc caused then, as Fani was the most intense storm to cross its coast during pre-monsoon season since 1965. A month later, in June 2019, Cyclone Vayu hit, sucking in much of the moisture over the Arabian Sea and significantly delaying the onset of monsoon in many parts of India.

IMD records and a Weather Channel analysis tracks the next three cyclonic storms formed within the space of two months. Both Kyarr and Maha over the Arabian Sea led to heavy rains along the western coast of the country. Bulbul, the latest storm to hit India, took a heavy toll on life and property as it made landfall over the southern parts of Gangetic West Bengal and the Sundarbans.

Cyclone Bulbul, which claimed more than thirty lives and affected thousands of people in India and Bangladesh, appears to have taken a huge financial toll as well. A Times of India report says Bulbul made landfall at the Sundarban delta in West Bengal. The severe cyclone killed as many as 10 people in West Bengal, and at least 22 in Bangladesh.

Maha recorded more than 110 mm rainfall within the first 10 days of November. This made November 2019 the rainiest November on record for Mumbai. July and September were also respectively the rainiest months on record for Mumbai. While the city received more than 1500 mm in July and broke the record set in 1907, it received over 1100 mm rainfall in September breaking the record set in 1954. Overall, 2019 has turned out to one of the rainiest years ever for Mumbai so far.

On average, four cyclones have affected India each year this past decade (2010-2019), which is one more than the average of three in the three decades since 1980. Experts say that this rise could very well be an indicator of the changing climate and the increasing temperatures of land as well as water bodies around the globe.

Private weather forecasting agency Skymet said in its latest bulletin that India will break its previous record of having been hit by the most number of tropical cyclones in a year. The IMD has said that the last such development of seven cyclones in a year occurred in 1985 (33 years ago).

Leading environmental digest Down To Earth reported the increase as well: “The severe cyclone frequency in the north Indian Ocean (the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea) has registered about a three-fold increase during the past decades. As compared to the previous decades, when about one severe cyclone was expected to form every year during the intense cyclonic period — May, October and November — the number has now gone up to about three per year.”