International Weather

Didn’t This Just Happen a Few Days Ago? Yemen Under Threat Again!

November 9, 2015; 10:54 am EST

Before we begin with this analysis… I have very little knowledge on the process of Hurricane development in the Indian Ocean. Granted, no matter where a hurricane forms this system needs warm water temperatures, low wind shear, and an area of disturbed weather (along with other factors). However, I do not know the dominant wind traits in this area of the world and how they steer these systems. Probably very few meteorologists know themselves. This is because the Indian Ocean is one of the least studied areas when it comes to meteorology and climatology.

Anyway, on with the news regarding another super rare cyclone about to make a direct impact on Yemen. Meet Cyclone Megh:

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Looks familiar right? Kind of Similar to Cyclone Chapala which went through the same exact area a week ago? You are right. Below is an image posted to twitter of the two cyclones that Yemen has been dealing with this month:

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(Photo from Twitter member Stu Ostro) 

These two cyclones could almost be twins! Same exact path and almost the same exact intensity! Focusing on the “younger sibling,” Cyclone Megh: this cyclone hit the eastern portion of the Yemeni Island of Socotra. The island experienced winds of 127 mph (204.4 km/h), making this storm a Category 3 storm according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Two people have been reported dead on the island.

Cyclone Megh now has its sights set on the main land of Yemen. A direct landfall is expected Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the good news is that this system will only be equated to a tropical storm once it comes ashore. And, like Cyclone Chapala it will weaken very fast due to the dry air surrounding the country. Looking at the satellite image below, it already shows that Megh is struggling a bit as she creeps through the Gulf of Aden. Currently Magh is maintaining a Category 2 strength but she is weakening very rapidly.

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Thunderstorm levels are starting to diminish and the storm is being torn apart as dry air from the desert-like is starting to wrap into the storm, basically killing it.

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The major threat to Yemen will be heavy rains, which will be secluded to the coastal cities and damaging winds. Megh is expected to dissipate inland soon after landfall, by around Wednesday morning.

The Indian Ocean has been highly active this year and Yemen experienced its first hurricane force system to ever make landfall (Cyclone Chapala). It is a terrifying year for those living along the Indian Ocean, however, it is also a world record year for this ocean basin. I look forward to researching more about the cyclones in this area of the world and why they are so active this year. Most likely cause: The “Godzilla” el Niño.

A Rare Cyclone Impacting Yemen

November 2, 2015; 9:28 pm EST 

I could create another tab that focuses on Indian Ocean hurricanes, but I think I have so many hurricane tabs dealing with this synoptic scale event. Besides this section needs more attention.

When we think of the country of Yemen we often think it is a country of unrest and a lot of desert heat. We do not think of hurricanes at all in this part of the world. The Indian Ocean refers to hurricanes as “cyclones” and there has been very little research done in this area regarding cyclones. This is mostly due to the lack of available meteorological data and the rarity of these storms. There is no “hurricane season” for this region. It is not uncommon to see cyclones forming at all times during the year. However, cyclones typically increase in frequency between April and December with the peak months running from May to November. However, unlike other hurricane active oceans, this area only sees about four cyclones form every season. So far in 2015 this basin has seen 6 cyclones, including the deadly and rare Cyclone Chapala.

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If you can believe it Cyclone Chapala is the short version of the name. The India Meteorological Department refers to this system as “Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Chapala”. Sounds scary right? It gets better: this storm is considered to be a category 1 system (note: this ocean basin does not use the Saffir-Simpson Scale, they warn residents by giving a wind speed). Now let’s not laugh. Many of us may snicker at this but a cyclone in the Indian Ocean is very dangerous no matter where it goes. Many of the countries that are impacted by these storms are developing and do not have any structures that can withstand hurricane force winds. Yemen is one of these countries. The reason this name is stuck to this storm is that about 24 hours ago this cyclone reached a peak intensity with winds of 150 mph (240 km/h). Thus it was equivalent to a category 4 hurricane. However, even though this storm has downgraded the very long severe name still remains with the cyclone until it is gone. Think of it as a badge of honor. Now usually Yemen does not experience these severe storms and is usually protected thanks to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

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These are very small inlets and it is very rare for a cyclone to stay in this area. Usually a cyclone will run into land before reaching this inlet and dissipate fairly fast. Not this time. Cyclone Chapala managed to follow this small water-way and make it’s way to Yemen. Chapala did a very good job and just look at the formation of this storm as it approaches the coast line:

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Text book example of a perfect circular cyclone with a profound eye. Now from the image above it may look like this is a huge storm but in reality:

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Chapala is pretty tiny. This cyclone will only impact a small area of Yemen and bring a few showers to the rest of the country. However, due to Chapala’s small size, the main impact will be wind with this storm. The precipitation will not be a major problem with this system. Storm surge could be a problem and this has to do with the area the storm is in. Thanks to the small and narrow inlet in the Gulf of Aden, wave heights and storm surge could be high. The water has nowhere to go because this narrow area is trapping the water. Locals have already reported that sea level rise is around 9 meters (29 feet) along the Mukalla waterfront. However, a good thing is that this storm is relatively small. Small storms don’t usual produce large amounts of storm surge. However, given the fact that this storm is trapped in this narrow area, the storm surge will be higher than what it should be if it made landfall somewhere else. The wind will also give residents problems and this has to do with the war-torn country. Many buildings have been weakened due to years of war and those that are still standing are not built to withstand high winds, especially from a cyclone. However, this does not mean that this will be a deadly and horrible storm. This storm is mostly unique because of its track.

Chapala passed just to the north of the remote Yemeni island of Socotra on Monday (local time) and killed at least one person before pushing away. Many residents took shelter in schools and caves as the storm brought heavy rains and waves to the island.

In the next 4-6 hours Chapala is expected to make landfall over the coast west of Al Mukalla maintaining its category 1 status. However, thanks to the dry desert air of Yemen this system will dissipate very fast once it makes landfall. This dry air will quickly wrap into the system and choke it literally. Very little rain will remain over Yemen once this dry air gets into this system. Therefore, residents along the coast will be the “lucky” ones to experience the brunt of this storm, and it won’t last long. And, because Yemen is such a dry place that averages very little rain, this cyclone is expected to bring several years worth of rain to the region. Just from this one tiny storm.

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Above shows the approximate amount of precipitation forecasted for Yemen. Forecasts are calling for over 20 inches of rain along the coastal regions of Yemen where the storm makes landfall. It is incredible! We are basically going to see that miracle in movies when rain comes to a desert that hasn’t seen a drop of moisture in centuries. Haha!

The last time a strong cyclone hit the country was in 2008 when “Deep Depression ARB 02” (love the names) hit Yemen with 35 mph (60 km/h) winds. Records for cyclones in Yemen started in 1979.

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