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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Tauktae likely first extremely severe cyclone to reach close to Mumbai coast in 130 years

“It is for the first time after 1976 and only the second time since 1900 that a cyclone, which formed in May – pre-monsoon period – has hit Gujarat coast with wind speed greater than 35 knots (65 kmph),” said Vineet Kumar Singh, a researcher.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
May 19, 2021 3:05:45 am
Fishermen try to recover a smaller boat that drifted away due to rough sea conditions, in Mumbai on Tuesday. (Photo: Ganesh Shirsekar)

According to the records of the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) Cyclone E-Atlas – a repository that tracks tropical cyclones and weather depressions over the north Indian Ocean since 1891 – Cyclone Tauktae is also most likely the first extremely severe cyclone with gusting wind speeds of 200 kmph to reach close to the Mumbai coast in the last 130 years.

Researchers at Indian Institute Of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) in Pune have been analysing cyclone landfall data for Maharashtra and the west coast since 1891, when authorities officially began recording cyclone formations.

“It is for the first time after 1976 and only the second time since 1900 that a cyclone, which formed in May – pre-monsoon period – has hit Gujarat coast with wind speed greater than 35 knots (65 kmph),” said Vineet Kumar Singh, a researcher.

This is the third consecutive year that cyclones in the Arabian Sea have come close to the west coast, leaving wreckage in its wake. Nisarga hit Shrivardhan in the Raigad district in 2020 as a severe cyclone storm, while in 2019, Vayu, brewing in the Arabian Sea, moved parallel to the west coast, before hitting Gujarat.

Experts said that the recent increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Arabian Sea is no more of an anomaly.

Singh, who recently published a paper on ‘Warmer Sea Surface Temperature’ in Scientific Reports, published by Nature, said that ocean surface temperatures have been warmer than normal.

Abinash Mohanty, programme lead at Delhi-based research institute Council on Energy, Environment and Water, said: “The trail of destruction left behind by Cyclone Tauktae is a grim reminder of India’s vulnerability to extreme climate events. Estimates suggest that surface temperatures over the Arabian Sea have increased by 1.2 to 1.4°C in the last two decades, increasing the frequency of cyclonic events on the west coast. The implementation of the National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project, approved in 2015, should consider such worrying trends.”

Experts have stressed the need for a cyclone risk assessment for the west coast, one similar to the east coast, which has faced wreckage due to severe cyclones in the Bay of Bengal.

In a Twitter post, Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at IITM, said, “We can’t wait for these forecasts to evacuate people every year. We can’t evacuate ecosystems, infrastructure, houses, and cars. The Arabian Sea will continue to warm in the future churning off more cyclones and floods along the west coast. We need a long-term vision.”

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