Super cyclones – The future of the Arabian sea!!

Sea surface temperatures are rising on May 14

The Arabian sea is located in the north of the third largest ocean in the world that is the Indian Ocean, the Indian Ocean is the warmest ocean in the world. The countries that touches Arabian sea includes India, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Somalia. Cyclones are very rare in this part of the world but that does not mean that Arabian sea can not give birth to some major storms the famous example is Cyclone Gonu and Cyclone Phet. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), which is the regional head in the region for monitoring any cyclonic disturbance in the Bay of Bengal (BOB) and Arabian sea, has given the alphabetical name ARB to this sea.

Every year 5 to 6 cyclones develop in the North Indian Ocean with 3 or 4 produced by BOB. The Arabian sea usually gives birth to 1 or 2 depression before and after the Indian monsoon, years go by and the ARB remains calm but during the past few years some major cyclones have developed in the Arabian sea that puts a lot of concern to the coastal cities near this sea especially Karachi and Mumbai.

With the increase in global warming and climate change the sea temperatures are likely to rise and weather patterns all around the globe will alter

How many cyclones have been there in the Arabian sea till?

There had been a total of 50 tropical cyclones in the Arabian sea from 1885 till 2010, there might be more as some storms go undetected, so we will suppose that there had been 100 cyclones in the Arabian sea since 1885 till 2010, still suggesting that this sea is calm tropical basin.

Bizarre things happening in the Arabian sea!

The Past in focus

Super Cyclone Gonu - the sign of things to come!

The Arabian Sea’s average temperature has gone up by 2°C to 5°C over the last four decades, which is an alarming situation for the coastal cities of the Indian-Subcontinent and other states. The sea’s temperature, which used to be around 22°C to 27°C till 1980s, are now 27°C to 32°C, overall the average temperature has increased by 2°C  during the last 40 years. This has given rise to some major cyclones which were never spotted in this sea as far the living memory is concerned. During the end of 20th century and beginning of 21st century, three major category-3 hurricanes formed in the Arabian sea. Which are as follows;

  • In June 1998, a cyclone with winds up to 120 mph smashed Indian State of Gujarat killing 10,000 people.
  • In May 1999, a powerful cyclone with winds up to 125 mph battered Sindh province of Pakistan, killing 6400 people. The storm was just 100 km from Karachi.
  • In May 2001, a cyclone with winds up to 125 mph made landfall near Gujarat, killing 900 people.

It is worth mentioning that all these major storms formed continuously from 1998 till 2001 excluding 2000. At that time Indian-Subcontinent especially Pakistan and North-western India were going through severe droughts. All these cyclones also affected the same areas that is Sindh-Gujarat border with little variations.

Present in focus

Cyclone Phet dropped more than 600 mm rainfall over Arabian Sea

The most recent example is Cyclone Gonu and Cyclone Phet. Gonu in 2007 is the most strongest cyclone in the Arabian sea and the most strongest in the North Indian Ocean according to the JTWC (Joint typhoon Warning Centre), this is a clear indication that some thing is wrong in the Arabian sea as the sea that used to be quiet has now produced the intense cyclone of the Indian Ocean. Gonu also had an extremely rare track, it made landfall in Oman and then moved to Iran. It is also the first cyclone ever to enter Iran. Cyclone Gonu was a major category-5 hurricane with winds up to 165 mph gusting to 195 mph, at least 77 people died in Oman and another 28 people died in Iran due to the storm.

Another example is Cyclone Phet, a category-4 hurricane that was forecasted to become a category-5 storm. Cyclone Phet also had a rare track, it moved from Oman to Pakistan and India, usually cyclones move from India and Pakistan to Oman. According to data from the tropical rainfall measuring mission satellite, the cyclone had caused more than 600 mm (23.6 inches) of rain over the open waters of the Arabian Sea. Cyclone Phet made landfall near Karachi with 152 mm rainfall though it was a tropical depression by that time. The cyclone had 145 mph winds and a clear eye at peak intensity. The storm killed 44 people in the three countries.

What is causing this abnormal behavior? 

There are many reasons for such behavior of the Arabian sea, mostly global warming. The other reason could be that the CO2 (Carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere that is turned into oxygen by plants on ground. But the ocean which absorbs CO2 does not give oxygen but that CO2 is mixed with direct solar radiations and seasonal heats that is one of the factors causing the temperatures to rise.

Another factor is that, in the past the temperatures in the sea were high but the land had normal temperatures that is why there were less cyclones. Now the land temperatures are rising, while the sea temperatures are about to double which is causing increase tropical activity in the Arabian sea, which is a great threat to Pakistan and India.

What does future holds for us?

Destruction by a cyclone

Lots of winds, rains, storm surge, death and destruction. Unless we start educating people about these cyclones, which are not tsunamis as most Pakistanis think. Developement in coastal cities should be avoided and we should build cities at higher ground level.


8 thoughts on “Super cyclones – The future of the Arabian sea!!

  1. In case of hurricanes, what do you mean by category ?
    I mean category-4, category-5, what defines a category?

    • Like every mini games there are levels, each level is harder than the previous one..Cyclones/Hurricanes/Typhoons also have levels called category…to measure these categories we use Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS)..this scale is used all over the world especially in U.S.A..According to this scale;
      *Tropical depression- winds 35 to 39mph (here in Pak-Indo..its called depression and a stronger version is called deep depression)
      *Tropical storm- winds 40 mph to 73 this stage the storm is given a name, next on the list.
      *Category 1- Hurricane- winds 74mph to 95mph
      *Category 2-Hurricane- winds 96 mph to 110mph
      *Category 3-Hurricane- winds 111 -130
      *Category 4- Hurricane- winds 131-155
      *Catgory 5-Major Hurricane- winds greater than 155 (they could reach 170, 180 or even 190mph)

  2. Arabian sea is useless. It can never give birth super cyclone nor it can give meaningful precipitation to Arabian sea side areas like karachi. Bay of bengal can give birth super cyclones and there is always meaningful precipitation presents over whole bay of bengal which also spreads to punjab,nwfp,kashmir and quetta side areas. Because of this useless arabian sea karachi weather is hot and dry whole year


    • Arabian sea is not useless…its gives intensity to the systems of Bay of Bengal that are coming towards Karachi..It has also given birth to some major cyclones (plz read the article than give comments)….

  4. Very informative article Babarbhai. We, are surrounded by the Arabian Sea (I live in Mumbai), and are really affected by the ups and downs in the Sea. The ARB can be really active and bring damaging cyclones, as you have mentioned. I only hope, that no cyclones destructive to life and property anywhere.
    After all, it this this branch which brings in our side of the Monsoon, at least the advancing stage.
    Babarbhai, I see Cenral Pakistan heating up now, reaching 50c. Was Larkana 51c on 19th ?
    Thanks, Rajesh.

    • Thank you Mr.Rajesh 🙂
      Cyclones are always a concern in Karachi, in 2007 Cyclone Yemyin brought severe destruction in Karachi when large billboards came crashing down due to 111 km/h winds.
      The temperature I observed yesterday showed that 50°C was recorded in Larkana while 45 °C in Lahore and 42°C at Islamabad Airport.

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