Cyclones of Bay of Bengal weaker than hurricanes, but cause more damage: expert

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Bhubaneswar: Funnel shaped and shallow, the Bay of Bengal has witnessed around 500 cyclones in 125 years since 1891 of which 107 had targeted Odisha causing immense devastation.

“However, compared to hurricanes inthe west pacific, cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal are less intense and much weaker but ironically cause more death and destruction. In fact, 18 out of 24 cases of cyclonic storms causing more than 5,000 deaths had occurred in the region surrounding the Bay of Bengal,” Prof Uma Charan Mohanty, Visiting Professor at the School of Earth, Ocean and Climate Science at IIT, Bhubaneswar told newsmen on the eve of the four-day National Symposium on Tropical Meteorology (TROPMET-2016) beginning at the SOA University on Sunday.

The high casualty figure was because the coastal deltaic plains were densely populated as the land was fertile and preparedness for such an eventuality was less, he said adding the shallowness of the sea also led to extreme surges.

The conference, being held in the state for the third time, has been organized by the Indian Meteorological Society (IMS) in collaboration with the SOA University and Odisha government and supported by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Government of India. The theme of the symposium is “Climate Change and Coastal Vulnerability.”
Mohanty said the world witnesses around 80 to 90 cyclones every year, seven per cent of which occur in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea but the change in the climate has been impacting such natural phenomena to a much greater extent than before.

Replying to queries, Mohanty said the super cyclone which devastated coastal Odisha on October 29-30, 1999 had a wind velocity of over 250 km per hour while ‘Phailin’ which hit the state on October 12, 2013 had a recorded wind speed of around 218 km per hour.  Cyclones with wind speed of 220 km per hour are categorized as Super Cyclones, but the casualty figure in 2013 was much less compared to 1999 because of increased awareness and timely administrative action.

Warming of the sea was the cause behind cyclones and apparently the number of such storms was on the rise due to global warming, he said while pointing out that severe to very severe cyclones now witnessed regularly were rare earlier.

“While the earth’s temperature had risen by 0.8 degree centigrade over the last 170 years, it was expected to increase by 2.5 degrees centigrade by 2100 AD causing the ice to melt and pushing up the sea level,” Mohanty said, adding climate change would affect the world’s water resources and agriculture while triggering a surge in diseases.

All efforts should be made to ensure less emission of greenhouse gases so as to mitigate the problem as human activity was the prime reason for the imbalance in the world’s environment. “The atmosphere acts like a blanket. The blanket cannot generate heat but it traps the body’s heat to provide warmth, but the increased emission of greenhouse gases have led to a situation akin to the use of two or three blankets. Hence, the world is  experiencing  more heat,” he explained.

Air Vice Marshall (Retd) Prof  Ajit Tyagi, President of IMS and Dr Sarat Chandra Sahu, Director of IMD, Bhubaneswar and convenor of TROPMET-2016 were present at the press conference.

Union minister of state for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan and Higher Education and Science and Technology minister Pradeep Panigrahy would grace the inauguration of TROPMET-2016 at the Jayadev Bhavan on Sunday.

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