Why IMD is Still Tracking Shaheen Long After it is Away from Indian Coast?

Tropical cyclones of such intensity cause devastating impacts with the violent winds, torrential rainfall, not to mention coastal storm surges - all having the potential to wreak havoc in its path.

More than two days after the Severe Cyclonic Storm Shaheen moved well away from Dwarka on India’s western coast, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) continues to issue advisory/bulletin giving its latest location and predicted track.

On Sunday, the 2 p.m. bulletin read: “The Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘Shaheen’ over Gulf of Oman and adjoining northwest Arabian Sea moved west-southwestwards with a speed of about 15 kmph, during past six hours, lay centred over Gulf of Oman and adjoining northwest Arabian Sea, about 1,090 km west-northwest of Devbhoomi Dwarka (Gujarat), 240 km west-southwest of Chabahar Port (Iran), and 60 km north-northeast of Muscat (Oman).”

“The system is very likely to continue to move west-southwestwards towards Oman coast and weaken gradually. It is very likely to cross Oman coast between by early hours on Monday as a Severe Cyclonic Storm with a maximum sustained wind speed of 90 – 100 kmph gusting to 110 kmph,” it said.

Prior to emerging on the Gujarat coast as a deep depression that later turned into the Severe Cyclonic Storm Shaheen, it had traversed from east to west over peninsular India, starting as a cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal that made landfall at the south Odisha coast. It had already caused intense rainfall activity right from its beginning on the eastern coast all along its journey over central India.

Tropical cyclones of such intensity cause devastating impacts with the violent winds, torrential rainfall, not to mention coastal storm surges – all having the potential to wreak havoc in its path. Loss of life, property and damage to large infrastructure are among the immediate problems that the country in its path faces apart from the long term impacts due to devastation.

All this can not be avoided but definitely be minimised with a robust Early Warning System (EWS). It is here that the role of IMD comes in for predicting cyclones for many others too.

As Severe Cyclonic Storm Shaheen continues to race towards Oman, the Gulf country’s coastal areas have already witnessed intense rainfall since Saturday night and more rainfall is expected, with the intensity lessening only after the landfall on Monday morning.

It is a case of deja vu for Oman and its neighbours. In June 2007, Tropical Cyclone Gonu had affected the coastal areas of Oman, UAE and Iran, leaving more than 60 dead and over three dozen missing in those countries. Gonu had caused lots of damage to the infrastructure of Muscat, capital of Oman.

This time, Oman has already declared a two-day national holiday for enabling people to keep safe and take preventive measures from the flash floods that are likely to occur owing to the torrential rainfall from the cyclonic storm.

Question is, why is IMD issuing bulletin after bulletin even when Shaheen is so far away from the Indian coast?

As designated by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), IMD is one of the five Regional Specialised Meteorological Centres (RSMCs) for Tropical Cyclones set up across the globe. Each of these are given the task of issuing advisories for the geographical areas assigned by the WMO.

Catering to entire Indian Ocean rim countries, IMD issues advisories for upcoming tropical cyclones to 13 member nations – Bangladesh, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UAE and Yemen, apart from mention for India itself.

“IMD does not get paid fort this work. It is done as part of India’s international commitment,” said former Secretary, Earth Sciences, Madhavan Rajeevan.

“These countries do not have their own cyclone warning forecast, they rely entirely on IMD,” he told IANS.

IMD keeps round the clock watch over the entire North Indian Ocean, carries out analysis and processing of global meteorological data for diagnostic and prediction purposes, detection, tracking and prediction of cyclonic storms in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and running the numerical models for tropical cyclone track and intensity prediction.

WMO arrangements also includes collection, processing and archival of all data pertaining to cyclonic storms viz. wind, storm surge, pressure, rainfall, satellite information etc. and exchange of composite data and bulletins pertaining to cyclonic storms with the panel countries.

Preparation of comprehensive reports on each cyclonic storm along with storm surge, track and intensity prediction are some of the routine works that IMD does for each and every cyclonic circulation that is likely to evolve into a cyclone.

“We issue bulletins every three hours. They are conveyed to respective countries by email and also posted on IMD’s website apart from sharing it on the Global Observing System,” IMD’s Director General (Meteorology) Dr Mrutyunjay Mahapatra said.

The help is acknowledged by the user countries.

A 2012 paper on ‘How the National Forecasting Centre in Oman Dealt with Tropical Cyclone Gonu’ published in Tropical Cyclone Research and Review had mentioned: “It must be noted the importance of various satellite data which helped in monitoring and tracking cyclone Gonu, in particular Meteosat-7. Also, the importance of various outputs and warnings from the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC – New Delhi, India), and the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) which helped the forecasters at DGMAN make the right decisions.”

What can be a better compliment for IMD’s effort?

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