Natural Disasters

Mocha is the strongest cyclone on earth so far in this year: Expert

Storm equals Fani in terms of speed and intensity  

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Sunday 14 May 2023

Photo: Windy.comMocha, categorised as an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and as a ‘Super Cyclone’ by global weather website Zoom Earth, is the strongest cyclone on earth so far in this year, a climate expert told Down To Earth (DTE) on May 14, 2023.

Vineet Kumar Singh, a researcher at Typhoon Research Center in South Korea’s Jeju National University, said there had been 16 cyclones so far this year in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. “But Mocha has been the strongest so far,” he said.

He added that Mocha became the strongest cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean, including for all seasons and in both Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, since 1982.

Mocha, with a recorded wind speed of 150 knots or 277 kilometres per hour, also became the strongest cyclone in the North Indian Ocean during the pre-monsoon season, tying with Cyclone Fani.

Singh added that the speed and intensity of Mocha were equal to Fani.

“According to the (United States) Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC), the 1999 super cyclone in Odisha was 140 knots, while Phailin and Hudhud were 259 and 212 kmph respectively. Amphan, witnessed in 2020, was 268 kmph while Tauktae in 2021 was 222 kmph and Gonu in 2007 was 268 kmph,” Singh said.

Landfall completed

Mocha made landfall during the afternoon hours of May 14 on the Myanmar coast near Sittwe at a speed of 180-190 kmph, gusting to 210 kmph, IMD stated.

“It made landfall about 170 km south-southeast of Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) and 40 km southwest of Sittwe (Myanmar),” IMD said.

It said the Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm brought heavy rainfall along with gale winds over the north Myanmar-southeast Bangladesh coasts.

Raghu Murtugudde, a climate scientist at the University of Maryland and Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, said the cyclone did not undergo ‘stalling’, a phenomenon where a cyclone sustains on a water body, gaining moisture for a longer time before entering the land.

“No data about the cyclone shows that it had sustained winds of super cyclone strength for long enough,” he added.

Singh spoke about the second cyclone brewing in the Indian Ocean. It can intensify as a category 2 cyclone which is around 148 kmph. “If it intensifies to this strength, it can influence the regular wind flow pattern which can ultimately affect the southwest monsoon,” he added.

According to IMD, the Northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and the southern part of Assam were likely to witness heavy-to-very heavy rains until May 18.

It also mentioned that maximum temperatures were above normal by 2-4 degrees Celsius over parts of Northwest, central and Northeast India.

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