Why Fani became so powerful?

The cyclonic storm Fani entered Bangladesh on Saturday in a weakened form after sweeping India’s East Coast comprising Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal as also the north eastern states. Odisha was in the eye of the storm in its extremely severe form and was the worst-hit in terms of destruction. As far as the human casualty is concerned, eight persons were killed in Odisha.

The toll has been kept to a minimum largely due India’s extensive preparedness and a robust weather forecasting system despite the ferocity of Fani when it made landfall in Odisha. The question that arises is: what is the reason for the unusual power of Fani? Met experts viewed the strength of Fani as unusual for a cyclonic storm for this time (April-May) of the year because cyclones emerging out of the Bay of Bengal before the onset of monsoon are usually weaker than those in October-December at the time of the retreat of the monsoon. Pre and post-monsoon are the time when cyclones originate.

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After forming over slightly warmer waters of the sea, cyclones from the Bay of Bengal tend to move north west before changing route. As a cyclone moves across the sea, it gathers strength from increased moisture over the warm waters. The longer time a storm spends over the sea, the more ferocious it becomes, according to experts. The first area of a storm’s landfall bears the maximum brunt as much of its fury is unloaded there. That explains why Odisha was the most affected by Fani which then lost much of its steam before proceeding to West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Fani too travelled quite a long way spending a number of days over the sea, acquiring strength in the process. At first, its direction was north west towards Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh but shifted course towards north east towards Odisha. As a result, Fani’s journey took more time across the Bay of Bengal and became more powerful than it would have been had it made the landfall in Tamil Nadu’s coastal area. “No cyclone has had such a long journey in April,” according to K J Ramesh, Director General of India Meteorological Department.

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