How powerful is Cyclone Phailin?

Though there is no precise measurement of the strength of Cyclone Phailin as it rushes towards the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, since there are no aircraft-borne measurement efforts underway, reports suggest that the impact could by catastrophic.

A Quartz report said the storm has grown to nearly half the size of India, with further growth expected until landfall, expected on Saturday.  Its strength could be classified as a Category 4 hurricane, the report said, based on current forecasts. But reality could be somewhat worse.

 How powerful is Cyclone Phailin?

A satellite image from IMD.

"That forecast may, in fact, be conservative. Waters over the Bay of Bengal are exceptionally warm right now—more than 28°C, which is the generally agreed upon threshold above which rapid intensification of tropical cyclones is most likely," the report says, adding that the siz eand impact could be as big as the 1999 Odisha cyclone in which 10,000 people died.

The report cited other satellite-based measurements as being more alarming that the Indian Met department's forecasts.

A Washington Post report offered more reasons to prepare for the worst.

Private forecasting company reportedly believes maximum winds over the cyclone are now 160 miles per hour. It quotes meteoreologist Ryan Maue as saying it is "equivalent to Katrina in size".

"Wunderground meteorologist Jeff Masters warns cyclones that form over the Bay of Bengal have a history of producing devastating cyclones," the report says.

“Twenty-six of the thirty-five deadliest tropical cyclones in world history have been Bay of Bengal storms,” Masters writes. “During the past two centuries, 42% of Earth’s tropical cyclone-associated deaths have occurred in Bangladesh, and 27% have occurred in India," it adds.

These reports indicate that the Indian Met Department may have slightly underestimated the impact of the cyclone, though preparations are underway to evacuate over 40,000 people from the coastal areas.

Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) has said Phailin is witnessing “extreme rapid intensification.”

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Updated Date: Oct 14, 2013 16:04:09 IST