Sudden impact

On Sunday, June 7, the meteorological office in Pune and the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi released a cyclone warning pertaining to Gujarat and the neighboring states. However, the Gujarat secretariat sent its first serious warning to the districts only on Monday night, barely 12 hours before the cyclone's estimated arrival. The result: there was no time to prepare for the calamity. On Tuesday night, the tidal waves struck the shores and left about 1,700 people, mostly salt-pan workers, dead and thousands homeless.

Normally, cyclones originating from the Arabian Sea are formed once in three years. It does not reach the coastal region because it is weakened by westerly troughs that drain the moisture out of it before it hits the land. However, this time the timing of the wind trough did not coincide with the cyclone mainly due to changing global factors brought about by global warming, says a meteorologist. A temperature increase by even one degree, for instance, may mean rise in the rate of evaporation, rapid cloud formation and changes in wind directions.

Secondly, the mean sea surface temperature (SST) necessary for cyclone formation was not attained this year. Though Akhilesh Gupta, principal scientific officer of the Satellite Meteorological Office, India Meteorological Department, New Delhi, says that the conditions necessary for cyclone formation need not be the same each year, he does not rule out the cyclone's possible link with the El Ni

Related Content