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Climate Change Is Making India’s West Coast More Vulnerable to Cyclones

Climate Change Is Making India’s West Coast More Vulnerable to Cyclones

A new study found significant increases in the intensity, frequency, and duration of cyclonic storms over the Arabian Sea. Is the west coast prepared?

The northern Indian Ocean consists of two seas: the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Arabian Sea to the west. Historically, tropical cyclone activity in the Bay of Bengal is generally higher than that in the Arabian Sea. But new research showed a shift in this trend.

Researchers found that between 1982 and 2019, there was a significant increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of cyclonic storms over the Arabian Sea. Specifically, they noted a 52% increase in the frequency of cyclonic storms, an 80% increase in their duration, and an increase in intensity of about 20% in the premonsoon period and 40% postmonsoon. In addition, researchers documented a tripling of the accumulated cyclone energy in the Arabian Sea. The study was published in Climate Dynamics.

“We studied data covering about 38 years by dividing [the period] into two epochs of 19 years each. In the Arabian Sea, we found that the intensity, frequency, and duration [are] increasing, but in the Bay of Bengal there has been no significant change,” said Medha Deshpande, lead author of the study and a scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM).

Reasons for the increase in cyclonic activity in the Arabian Sea include increases in sea surface temperature and tropical cyclone heat potential. Both measures are reliable indicators of climate change.

Warming Seas and Cyclonic Activity
The recent Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that the Indian Ocean is experiencing the world’s fastest rate of ocean surface warming.

Roxy Mathew Koll is a climate scientist at IITM, a coauthor of the new study, and a reviewer of recent IPCC reports.
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