Environment: Cyclones in October

October on the eastern coast of India is not just Dusshera time but also the cyclone time. In the last 5 years (2013-18) three cyclones hit the eastern coast of India (Odisha & Andhra Pradesh). And all three of them – Phailin, Hudhud and Titli came in October. What’s about the month of October that makes Bay of Bengal so deadly and cyclonic in nature?

But before we know about the October phenomena. We shall briefly state the conditions under which a cyclone can be stirred up.

Only those oceans whose waters are capable of reaching a temperature of at least 80°F (27°C) for a depth of 150 ft (46 m), and those situated a minimum of 300 miles (46 km) away from the equator are considered to be hotspots for cyclones/hurricanes. Once the above conditions are met it is likely to witness cyclones around the area. There are largely seven such ocean regions, or basins, around the world:

  1. the Atlantic,
  2. the Eastern Pacific (includes the Central Pacific),
  3. the Northwest Pacific,
  4. the North Indian,
  5. the Southwest Indian,
  6. the Australian/Southeast Indian, and
  7. the Australian/Southwest Pacific.

But more on the other cyclonic basins later. For now, we shall focus on what goes in the northwest Pacific making it deadly particularly in October.

Cyclones in October: Concept

Adjacent to the northwest Pacific, which is one of the world’s most active basins for typhoons, the Bay of Bengal receives the remnants of major landfalls in the Philippines, China and South Asia. From these places come low-pressure systems that develop into a monsoon depression or a cyclone. The reason that cyclones such as Titli, Phailin (2013) and Hudhud (2014) typically strike in October is that wind shear — the difference within wind speeds and direction at two different levels — is low during this time; low wind shear, when combined with surface sea temperatures greater than 27°C, raises the likelihood of cyclones. In monsoon season, cyclones are rare because of high wind shear.

The Preparedness and the Disaster Alert System:

Due to the repeated cyclones year after year there has been a lot of damage to property and loss of lives. Often, the cyclone warning system informed to people about the cyclone just a few hours ahead of the calamity. Hence, leaving no time for evacuation. However, the government of Odisha this week launched an early warning dissemination and mass message system to pass on timely information. The government has installed 122 towers in the coastal districts (along 480km of coastline) to provide early warning about cyclones, tsunamis, and floods.

More on the working of Early Warning Dissemination System:

The innovative warning system would alert people about disasters such as floods and cyclone. Fishermen fishing in deep sea can also be reached via mass SMS on their mobile phones through Early Warning Dissemination System (EWDS),” said Bishnupada Sethi, Managing Director of Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.

The EWDS, a collaborative effort of the Central and State governments, has been implemented under the assistance of World Bank. It comprises technologies such as satellite-based mobile data voice terminals, digital mobile radio, mass messaging system and universal communication interface for interoperability.

It’s a part of the last-mile connectivity program under National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project and aims to inform the last man living near the sea in case of an impending cyclone. Six coastal districts —Balasore, Bhadrak, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Puri and Ganjam — of Odisha have been covered under the EWDS.

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