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The probability of tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea increases this month with approaching official start of the 2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season in April. While the season has no official bounds, tropical cyclones in North Indian Ocean tend to form between April and December, with two peaks – May and November.
Cyclones in this region rarely receive sufficient western media attention, but the North Indian Ocean produced world’s deadliest cyclone and one of the deadliest natural disasters in known history.
While the basin sees 3 to 4 tropical cyclones on average, last year it produced 7 and the current season has already had one named storm – Pabuk, its earliest tropical cyclone on record.
The system was upgraded to a tropical storm on December 31, after absorbing TD 35W (Usman) on December 30. Unofficially, this was the last system of the 2018 typhoon season but since it was named on January 1, it became the first tropical cyclone of the 2019 typhoon season and the earliest-forming tropical cyclone of the northwest Pacific Ocean on record.
Pabuk struggled to intensify further over the next two days until it accelerated west-northwestward and entered the Gulf of Thailand on January 3, becoming the first tropical cyclone over the gulf since Muifa in 2004.
It made landfall over Pak Phanang, Thailand at 05:45 UTC on January 4, becoming the first tropical cyclone to make landfall over southern Thailand since Linda in 1997. Shortly after 12:00 UTC, the JMA issued the last full advisory for Pabuk as it exited the basin.
Pabuk then entered the North Indian Ocean basin, becoming its earliest tropical cyclone on record.
It is also important to note that the 2018/19 Southwest Indian Ocean tropical cyclone season became record-setting on March 4, 2019, with 6 Intense Tropical Cyclones. The last season that had as much intense tropical cyclones as the current was the season of 2006/07.
States like West Bengal, Odisha and Gujarat are the ones most susceptible to cyclones during the pre-monsoon period, Skymet Weather meteorologists said. These cyclones originate as a weak disturbance at first which under favorable conditions convert to cyclones.
North Indian Ocean produced the world’s deadliest cyclone in known history – Cyclone Bhola (1970).
Bhola struck East Pakistan and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970, killing at least 500 000 people, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta.
This cyclone was the sixth cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and the season’s strongest.
Featured image: Bay of Bengal on March 7, 2019. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS
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