Climate Change

Just how many cyclones does the world have now

Water makes up three quarters of the planet and there's turbulence on seas across the world

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Thursday 07 November 2019

Just how many cyclones do the world have now

On November 7, 2019 the deep depression in the east-central and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal intensified into Cyclone Bulbul. It is the seventh cyclone to form in the Indian Ocean region this year, the highest in the last 34 years — a record held jointly with 2018.

It will also be the second storm to form in the Bay of Bengal this year after extremely severe Cyclone Fani in April-May. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts that the storm will likely intensify into a severe cyclone and move in the north-north west direction towards the West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts.

On the other side of the Indian subcontinent, in the Arabian Sea there is Cyclone Maha that came down from ‘extremely severe’ to ‘severe’ category and then finally to a 'deep depression on November 7. It was moving towards the Gujarat coast at around 20 km per hour but rapidly decreasing in intensity.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted it would be a depression by the evening of November 7. It was nevertheless expected to heavy rainfall to Gujarat, Daman and Diu and parts of northern Maharashtra.

In the Indian Ocean region, cyclones Bulbul and Maha came in quick succession after super cyclone Kyarr — a first in the region after the Odisha super cyclone of 1999.

The Arabian sea, usually not known to be prone to cyclones, has had four major cyclones this year — very severe cyclone Vayu, very severe cyclone Hikaa, super cyclone Kyarr and extremely severe cyclone Maha. This equals the record for the highest number of severe cyclones in the Arabian sea in the last 117 years, according to IMD.

There have been two extremely severe cyclones and one super cyclone in the Indian Ocean region in 2019, taking the total number of severe cyclones to five. There were six severe cyclones in 2018. The last time there were more than five severe cyclones in two consecutive years was 1976-77 when seven and five severe cyclones formed respectively, according to IMD data.

With the formation of Bulbul there will be four active cyclonic storm systems in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. This showcases the active nature of the sea surfaces and increased temperatures in these regions.

Super typhoon Halong in the western north Pacific Ocean was reaching wind speeds of greater than 300 kmph though it wasn’ a threat to any land mass or populations, according to forecasts by the Global Forecasting System of the United States.

It is one of the strongest storms to have been observed anywhere in the world since the beginning of the satellite era in 1979 — Wind speed has been faster than Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas in September.

In the West Philippine Sea, tropical storm Nakri was moving towards the Vietnam coast at 9 kmph. 

The heightened temperatures and activity was predicted by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in September. Experts believed that favourable conditions for the formation of cyclones would prevail.

The intensity of the cyclones could not have been predicted at the time but all cyclones that formed in the Indian Ocean region since September have been very severe cyclones or above — a trend also observed globally this year with humongous storm systems like Hurricane Dorian, Typhoon Hagibis and Hurricane Lorenzo.

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