Cyclone in Arabian Sea rare in Sept; climate change effect?

By, Mumbai
Sep 28, 2019 12:26 AM IST

Extreme weather events like the recent tropical cyclone Hikka are raising concerns about the possible effects of climate change. Tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea are a rare meteorological occurrence in September, experts said.

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“Cyclones in the Arabian Sea during September are not so common, but they have made [more] frequent appearances in the last two decades,” said meteorologist Akshay Deoras, who is also a PhD researcher at UK’s University of Reading.

“The Arabian Sea witnesses fewer tropical cyclones in a year due to factors like relatively-cooler sea surface temperatures and lesser initial weather disturbances that seed such powerful weather events. This is now changing. There are evidences of anthropogenic [human-induced] factors increasing the probability of such intense tropical cyclones in the post-monsoon period.”

The latest example is tropical cyclone Hikka, which made a landfall in Oman on September 24. Cyclone Vayu in June was one of the reasons for the delay in progression of the southwest monsoon, which made its onset over Mumbai after a delay of 15 days.

Deoras said that between 1891 and 2019, only nine cyclones were recorded in September, in the Arabian Sea. In contrast, the Bay of Bengal saw 41. Of the nine in the Arabian Sea, five intensified into severe cyclonic storms, as per India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) classification.

Director general of IMD, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, said, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed that intense cyclones developing over the Arabian Sea during pre-monsoon and isolated incidents post-monsoon are an increasing trend. However, whether it is due to climate change or not, is not yet proven.” The IPCC is a United Nations body and earlier this week, it presented its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). The SROCC has predicted a 10 times rise in global mean sea levels by 2100 with the possibility of more such cyclones in the Arabian Sea, leaving coastal habitats, like Mumbai, at critical risk.

Coordinating lead author of SROCC Anjal Prakash said, “The science is very clear now. Recurrence of these cyclones will make it very difficult for coastal cities and island communities to tackle. Apart from natural disasters, it will cause huge economic losses to the state exchequer.”


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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