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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Cyclone Fani

Fani, an extremely severe cyclonic storm lashed the Odisha coast Friday morning, uprooting trees, blowing away thatched huts, and disrupting communication links.

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How does a cyclone form?

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The above figure shows how cyclones form. The green arrows show where warm air is rising. The red arrows indicate where cool air is sinking.

         Tropical cyclones form only over warm ocean waters near the equator.
         To form a cyclone, warm, moist air over the ocean rises upward from near the surface. As this air moves up and away from the ocean surface, it leaves is less air near the surface. So basically as the warm air rises, it causes an area of lower air pressure below.
         Air from surrounding areas with higher air pressure pushes in to the low pressure area. Then this new “cool” air becomes warm and moist and rises, too. And the cycle continues…
         As the warmed, moist air rises and cools the water in the air forms clouds. The whole system of clouds and wind spins and grows, fed by the ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the ocean surface.
         As the storm system rotates faster and faster, an eye forms in the centre. It is very calm and clear in the eye, with very low air pressure. Higher pressure air from above flows down into the eye.
When the winds in the rotating storm reach 39 mph (63 kmph), the storm is called a “tropical storm”. And when the wind speeds reach 74 mph (119 kmph), the storm is officially a “tropical cyclone” or hurricane. Tropical cyclones usually weaken when they hit land, because they are no longer being “fed” by the energy from the warm ocean waters. However, they often move far inland, dumping many centimeters of rain and causing lots of wind damage before they die out completely.

Cyclone Categories

Fig: The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

         Cyclones are divided into categories depending on the strength of the winds produced. There are many different classification scales but one you may be familiar with is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This scale is used to desribe storms in Hollywood movies, e.g. “Twister” and “The Day After Tomorrow”.
         The classifications (1-5) are intended primarily for use in measuring the potential damage and flooding (storm surge) a cyclone will cause upon landfall.


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