Cyclone Michaung wreaks havoc in Southern India as it intensifies into a severe storm. Warmer oceans are the primary reason for the storm which is closely linked to Arctic Sea ice melt.
On December 3rd, tropical cyclone Michaung brought severe rain on regions of Southern India including Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and southern Odisha causing widespread damage to city infrastructure and loss of life. The Chennai international airport is submerged in ankle-deep water and is closed. Surprisingly, a crocodile has been sighted on the streets as a result of waterbodies overflowing.
The cyclone was developed near the North Indian Ocean due to unfavorable warm ocean conditions which later intensified into a destructive storm. Tropical cyclones in the month of December usually do not intensify and remain under wind speeds of 62 kmph to 88 kmph, not causing severe damage to cities. However, it is a rare case for a tropical cyclone to take the shape of a storm with wind speeds exceeding 90 kmph to 110 kmph.
Warmer than usual oceans conditions pose an alert that our world ecosystems are collapsing. As the Artic Sea ice melts, larger water surfaces are exposed to the sun, absorbing more heat and resulting in warmer ocean temperatures. According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), ocean temperatures of 26 °C or more, prevailing at depths between 50 meters and 100 meters, have led to the strengthening and propagation of the Michaung cyclone.
As the storm Michaung moves ahead and approaches land, the IMD has issued a warning of 200 mm of rain and 1.5-meter-high tidal waves near the shore in the next few days. Crop damage is anticipated to be significant. The exceptionally high rains may have an impact on paddy, pineapple, and other standing crops that are nearing harvest.
The increased frequency of rare weather and climate patterns observed around the world provides a warning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Learn more about the climate crisis in India.
Image source: Satellite image from Ventusky – Showing precipitation of more than 50 mm in certain areas, shaded in red.