Image: India Meteorological Department
Cyclone Biparjoy is the second major cyclone in the north Indian Ocean region after Mocha, which struck the coastlines of Bangladesh and Myanmar on May 15. Not a very good sign, the experts say. ‘Very severe cyclone' Biparjoy is aiming at the coastline of Gujarat and Pakistan’s southern Sindh region from the Arabian Sea. It is expected to cross between Gujarat’s Mandvi and Pakistan’s Karachi near Jakhau Port in Gujarat on the evening of June 15. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cyclone will arrive with a maximum wind speed of 125–135 kmph, gusting to 150 kmph.
Why are we facing a storm around this time?
Cyclone Biparjoy has been an extraordinary storm. In June, we usually don't see storms in the Arabian Sea. They are mostly seen in the pre-monsoon season. But since the monsoon got delayed this time because the temperatures were still high over the Arabian Sea, that’s why it came up.
How did Biparjoy gather steam?
It started its journey almost a week ago, on June 6, and rapidly intensified into a severe cyclone within 24 hours. Thereafter, it gained strength and became extremely severe in just two days, but lost some of its intensity because of the drop in sea surface temperatures. At the moment, it's a very severe cyclonic storm about a little less than 300 km from the coast of Saurashtra and Kutch, explains AVM GP Sharma, president at Skymet Weather.
"This is an exceptional storm that will possibly strike with fury. Though it may drop its card to a serious storm at the time of landfall because of fiction, dry air entrainment, and a drop in temperatures," explains Sharma.
What precautionary measures are being taken?
As the cyclone is set to hit Gujarat’s coast within 24 hours, many parts of the Saurashtra-Kutch region have received heavy rains accompanied by strong winds. Around 40,000 people residing near the coastal areas have been evacuated and shifted to shelter homes. Over 90 trains have been cancelled, according to the Western Railway. Around 30 teams of the national and state disaster response forces have been deployed.
Due to extreme weather conditions caused by the incoming cyclone, seven people have died in India so far. Just yesterday, in Mumbai, three boys, who went missing after venturing near the turbulent Arabian Sea off Mumbai’s Juhu Koliwada, were found dead.
How many cyclones have hit the western coast of late?
Biparjoy is the most powerful storm in Gujarat in comparison to the last three cyclones. According to the IMD, this is the fourth major cyclone to affect the Gujarat coast in five years. In 2019, cyclone Vayu made a landfall in the state, followed by Nisarga in 2020, which hit Maharashtra and brought ample rainfall to coastal Gujarat, while, in 2021, Tauktae made a landfall near Diu-Una, causing widespread destruction. Before this, Gujarat experienced four major cyclones in 20 years, from 1998 to 2018.
"In 2019, there were a total of nine storms in a year. On average, one should expect three storms. Most of the storms in the Arabian Sea drag away from the coast. Cyclone Biparjoy is an exception. We have already seen two cyclones this year; the last one was Mocha in the Bay of Bengal. Temperature is the main ingredient for the development of a cyclonic storm," says Sharma of Skymet.
Why has there been an uptick in the number of cyclones?
Due to global warming and unusually warm sea surface temperatures, there has been an uptick in activity in the north Indian Ocean region in recent years. The region, which is divided into two sub-basins—the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal—contributes seven percent of the world’s tropical cyclones.
Cyclones are increasing both on the west and east coasts. Traditionally, the West Coast has not had cyclones to this extent, at least not major cyclones, explains environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali. "It's a local as well as a global phenomenon, and cities are the most to blame. We should not expect that cities are going to escape the consequences of their actions forever. Right now, the actions are more visible in rural areas, and cities like Mumbai have escaped. But this will not be the case forever.
“The cyclone that happened in 2020 was the first to come this close to Mumbai in more than 100 years, and now it's happening every year. So, it is going to strike at some point," she adds.