Arabian Sea is breeding intense cyclones, global warming is serving new challenges

After rapidly intensifying into an extremely severe cyclonic storm, Tauktae made landfall in coastal Gujarat with maximum wind intensity at the eye of the storm at 160-170kmph, gusting to 190kmph. The most severe cyclone to hit Gujarat in two decades, Tauktae had barrelled up India’s western coast, leaving behind a trail of destruction in Kerala, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. While hundreds of houses were damaged in Karnataka, power supply was severely hit in Goa with many areas experiencing a 48-hour outage. Meanwhile, the cyclone forced Mumbai airport to be shut for nine hours and brought parts of the city’s public transportation network to a halt. Maharashtra also saw 12,500 people evacuated from Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts.

However, Tauktae had weakened before it made landfall in Gujarat. And with the cyclonic system further weakening on Tuesday, the worst is over. With lives lost, Tauktae did prove a further challenge for the affected states because it came amid the second wave of the pandemic. Covid patients in hospitals along the cyclone’s path had to be shifted to safer areas, there were the logistical hurdles of evacuating people while keeping them safe from fresh infections.

Nonetheless, the Centre and affected states have coordinated the disaster response smoothly. What Tauktae has highlighted is the increasing frequency and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea. In fact, this is the third consecutive year when a cyclone has affected India’s west coast. Experts believe this is down to climate change and warmer seas which fuel intensification of cyclonic systems. The initial failure of the India Meteorological Department to predict the intensity of Tauktae underlines a need to upgrade our weather observation models to better account for rising sea temperatures. It’s the latest alert that global warming demands India’s scientists and governments to really step up.


This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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