Cyclone Amphan led to $14 billion economic losses, says global report

The cyclone caused large-scale evacuation of residents of coastal areas in India and Bangladesh where 129 lives were lost in the cyclone
Around 2.4 million people were displaced in India, mainly in West Bengal and Odisha, and 2.5 million in Bangladesh.(File photo)
Around 2.4 million people were displaced in India, mainly in West Bengal and Odisha, and 2.5 million in Bangladesh.(File photo)
Updated on Dec 04, 2020 01:17 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByJayashree Nandi

Super cyclone Amphan, which made landfall in the Sunderbans near the India-Bangladesh border in May this year, is estimated to be the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the North Indian Ocean with economic losses amounting to about $14 billion, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) provisional report on the State of Global Climate released on Wednesday.

The cyclone caused large-scale evacuation of residents of coastal areas in India and Bangladesh where 129 lives were lost in the cyclone. Amphan reached the category 5 equivalent intensity (a wind speed greater than 156 mph, according to the UK Met Office) while over the Bay of Bengal and weakened before landfall to a category 2 storm but led to extensive damage in Kolkata and surrounding areas.

Around 2.4 million people were displaced in India, mainly in West Bengal and Odisha, and 2.5 million in Bangladesh. While many returned soon afterwards, damage to more than 2.8 million homes resulted in displacement of thousands, the WMO statement added.

This year is also very likely to be one of the three warmest years on record globally since temperature record-keeping began in 1850, according to the WMO report.

The global mean temperature for January to October 2020 was around 1.2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, dangerously close to breaching the 1.5°C threshold that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said will mark a menacing milestone in the warming of the planet.

Data sets used by WMO suggest that 2020 is the second warmest year on record, preceded only by 2016 and followed by 2019. The exact rankings for each data set could change once data for the entire year are available.

A 1.5°C rise in average temperature over pre-industrial times is the threshold beyond which many regions, including India, will record extreme temperatures; increases in frequency, intensity, and/or amount of heavy rainfall and an increase in intensity or frequency of droughts in some regions, IPCC warned last year in a special report titled Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees.

At a global mean temperature of 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels in the first 10 months, this year has already been dominated by extreme climate events, including excessive heat, wildfires and floods and a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, which added to the crisis posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heavy rain and flooding affected the Sahel, the Greater Horn of Africa, India and neighbouring areas, China, Korea and Japan, and parts of south-east Asia at various times of the year, the report said. Over 2,000 deaths were reported during the monsoon in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

India experienced one of the two wettest monsoon seasons since 1994. August was the wettest month on record for Pakistan

The warmest region this year was northern Asia, particularly the Siberian Arctic, where temperatures were more than 5°C above average. Siberian heat was at its peak in June, when it reached 38°C at Verkhoyansk on June 20, the highest known temperature anywhere north of the Arctic Circle. This fuelled the worst wildfire season in an 18-year-long data record, in terms of carbon dioxide emissions released by fires, according to the WMO. The number of tropical cyclones globally was above average in 2020, with 96 cyclones as of November 17 in the northern hemisphere and the 2019-2020 southern hemisphere seasons.

“Only 4% of the global tropical cyclones occur in the Bay of Bengal. These cyclones do not usually grow as intense as the cyclones in the Pacific or Atlantic but the damage is larger because of the vulnerability and exposure. These 4% cyclones cost about 80% of the global fatalities and a huge economic loss,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune.

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