Cyclones are severe atmospheric disturbances, also termed hurricanes or typhoons. The warm ocean of the tropics is the main source of energy for tropical cyclones. If water temperatures are warm enough, generally more than 26.5 degrees Celsius, and atmospheric conditions are supportive with favorable large-scale wind patterns, a tropical system can trigger, many of which follow a rather unstable trajectory.
Although the entire coast of India is prone to cyclones, the east coast is more vulnerable than the west coast. An analysis of the frequency of cyclones on the east and west coasts of India from 1891 to 2000 showed that there were nearly 308 cyclones (103 of them were tropical cyclones of the same period), 48 tropical cyclones traversed the west coast.
History of Destructive Cyclones
The history of cyclones in India has been frequent and destructive, however, the most fatal ones considered are the 1999 Odisha Cyclone and Cyclone Phailin in 2013. The cyclone Phailin of 2013 recorded the largest evacuation of over 550,000 in India for 23 years. Exactly a year ago in May 2020, Super Cyclonic Storm Amphan, the strongest cyclone to have struck the Ganges Delta since Sidr in 2007 and the first super cyclone to occur in the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 Odisha Cyclone.
Amphan is the costliest cyclone to be recorded in the North Indian Ocean, surpassing Cyclone Nargis of 2008 with the high cost incurred for evacuation of at least 658,000 people.
Recently on 17 May 2021, India’s western coast got struck by cyclone Tauktae, the strongest cyclone since 1998, with wind speed ranging between 160–170 km/hr gusting to 185 km/hr. More than 200,000 people in low-lying areas were moved to shelters, with reported fatalities of at least 169 people and leaving 80 others injured.
Tauktae wreaked havoc and claimed several lives in the western coastal region. It is the biggest to hit the region in decades off the coast of western India. Cyclone Tauktae brought heavy rainfall and flash floods to areas along the coast of Kerala and Lakshadweep, around 40,000 trees were damaged and water supply in-app. 6000 villages were affected badly.
India is facing another devastating Cyclone – Yaas, which is the second Bay Of Bengal cyclone during Covid times. Last year Cyclone Amphan had struck and as a result, the Center and the States were better prepared to face the crisis. Still, the severity of Cyclone Yass was such that several houses, farmlands, electric poles were damaged and hundreds of trees were uprooted in various districts of Odisha, West Bengal due to the strong winds of up to 130-145 kmph that whiplashed the eastern coastal region. At least four persons were reported dead in Odisha and one in Bengal. The Cyclone gradually weakened into a severe storm and expectedly a depression later on. There were rains and strong winds in Jharkhand and Bihar, with a low-pressure area over Uttar Pradesh.
Reasons Behind Intensification of Cyclones
The prime reason behind the recent intensification of cyclones, hurricanes, etc world over is global warming, a phenomenon primarily due to human-induced climate change, which keeps the sea temperature abnormally high. Cyclones are wake-up calls for Earth to check global warming.
Impact of Cyclones
Not only people are affected but the cyclones are adversely affecting the environment, particularly, coastal ecosystems which are very vulnerable due to their flat low terrain, high population density, overexploitation of natural resources, the severe environmental degradation caused by pollution, and unsustainable development. Mangroves, coral reefs often referred to as the heart of coastal ecosystems, are adversely affected due to frequent cyclonic encounters.
The deterioration of the ecosystem not only has a negative impact on the environment but also makes people in coastal areas more vulnerable. Major impacts of cyclones on the environment are in the form of erosion, destruction of houses, buildings, and heavy flooding of inland areas, tornadoes, loss of power, contaminated water supply.
Cyclones are also accountable for the loss of crops and uprooting of large trees and groves, destruction of the natural habitat of endangered species. Wild animals are adversely affected by cyclones or indirectly by changes in habitat population and food supply. When sewage treatment plants or sediments enter water bodies, there is an increased chance of poisoning. The beachside might move and change shape due to the storm surge. The riverbank gets eroded by flash floods, caused due to cyclones.
However, all is not bleak.
The heavy rains due to a Cyclone help the farmers of the affected area later as the future crops benefit from more moisture. You will be surprised to know that for places like Japan, cyclones are a major source of rainfall, as it receives more than half of its rain due to them.
We are very well aware that sea levels are rising due to the Climate Change effects. The barrier islands, though their beaches are somewhat eroded by cyclones, are indirectly benefited as the nutrient sediments are deposited in their inner areas due the cyclonic activity.