‘India’s west coast is likely to see more intense cyclones in the near future’ | Condé Nast Traveller IndiaMay 25, 2021
Waves hitting the shoreline in Mumbai during cyclone Tauktae. Photo: SUJIT JAISWAL / Contributor / Getty Images
Cyclone Yaas, the second pre-monsoon cyclone of the year is scheduled to make landfall between the coasts of Odisha and West Bengal on 26 May, with a wind speed of up to 185 km/h. Just last week, Cyclone Tauktae led to heavy rainfall in Maharashtra and caused severe damage in Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Daman and Diu. Given the increased frequency and intensity of cyclones in India, an understanding of the causes and the many effects of such cyclones is imperative. In conversation with CNT, Dr Roxy Mathew Koll, Climate Scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, breaks down the hows and whats of a cyclone as well as what India needs to be mindful of, going forward.
Is global warming causing more cyclones?
One of the main causes that oceans are heating up in the first place is global warming and climate change. Oceans absorb over 90% of the heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions caused due to global warming. Certain atmospheric conditions, winds and ocean currents lead to some parts of the ocean being more heated than others.
The Indian Ocean is warming faster than other oceans across the globe. Within the Indian Ocean, the western part, including the Arabian Sea, is warming quickly as compared to the other regions. We used to have about two or three cyclones in West Bengal every year. But that wasn’t the case for the Arabian Sea. Because the Arabian Sea is warming up, the west coast is likely to see more cyclones.
What places in India will likely be affected by cyclones in the future?
The recent experiences with Cyclone Tauktae, Ockhi and Nisarga show that west coast cities like Mumbai and Kochi should prepare for these kinds of disasters. The east coast has always had a history of cyclones. And there has been some risk assessment done for the east coast. But such a risk assessment has not been done for the west coast, where the threat is now increasing and there are no protection and policies in place compared to the east coast. Not only do they need to prepare for cyclones, but the accompanying rainfall and flooding as well.
Mumbai has heavy rainfall every year, and there has been a three-fold rise in heavy rainfall over the west coast of India since 1950. Kerala has also had floods for three years consecutively in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Our studies and climate projections show that the Indian Ocean will continue to warm up, particularly the Arabian Sea, churning out more cyclones that are more intense.
How can cities on the west coast prep for more cyclones?
Luckily through technology and prediction models, cities on the coastline can make adequate preparations to shield themselves from cyclones. Some of the natural defences like mangroves or artificial defences like sea walls, bio drainages and widening of rivers will help a city. Risk assessments data and models clearly show which part of the coastline is going to get affected and based on that there could be policies on disaster-proofing the coastline.