Enormous weather

Every morning I take a look at the satellite photos on the website of the Indian Meteorology Department. Normally, at this time of the year, my intention is to track the progress of the monsoon. The first sign of this is that the band of clouds along the equator (called the intertropical convergence zone) starts moving into the continental landmass of Asia. I marvel at the tools that are now at our disposal. Fifty years ago, we were entranced by a few photos of the the blue marble: the earth seen from space. Now, there is a torrent of such images. In about the same number of years the internet has expanded to be able to bring these images into our homes the moment we want it.

But the news is not always welcome. This is the week of Cyclone Amphan. The enormous extent of these cyclones is amazing: they are as big as continents. Amphan has currently gained enough energy to be called an extremely severe cyclonic storm (typhoon, if you are in the Western Pacific, and Category 3 storm if you are in the Atlantic or Australia). With the seas warming up, extreme weather of this kind is now an annual affair. Fortunately, disaster preparedness and response has improved over the last twenty years, to the point that last year the casualties were in the single digits. The human misery and economic cost remains severe, though. And I wonder how any physical distancing can be maintained when people are crammed into cyclone shelters for a couple of days. Bengal and Bangladesh are in for a bad time.


By afternoon the cyclone has gained enough energy to become a super cyclonic storm (typhoon, if you are in the Western Pacific, and Category 4 storm if you are in the Atlantic or Australia).