Cyclones Titli

Context:The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) has termed ‘Titli’, the severe cyclonic storm that devastated Odisha in October, as ‘rarest cyclone’.

Note: In October 2018, Severe Cyclonic Storm Gaza had hit coastal areas of Tamil Nadu


  • The RIMES is an intergovernmental body registered under United Nations.
  • It is owned and managed by 45 collaborating countries in Asia Pacific and Africa Region.
  • It seeks to establish regional early warning system within multi-hazard framework for generation and communication of early warning information and capacity building for preparedness and response to trans-boundary hazards.
  • It provides information related to Tsunami and extreme weather conditions. It also acts as a test bed for emerging technologies and help to enhance performance

Cyclones in India:

Cyclones mainly occur during post monsoon and less in pre-monsoon and monsoon season. Cyclones affect both the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea; however, the Bay of Bengal witness more cyclones than the Arabian Sea. This is because:

  1. Bay of Bengal has higher ocean surface temperature than the Arabian Sea. This helps in formation and intensification of cyclonic storms
  2. High rainfall and inflow of freshwater:
  • The Bay receives higher rainfall and a constant inflow of freshwater. Therefore, its surface water keeps getting refreshed, making it impossible for the warm water to mix with the cooler water below, making it ideal for depression.
  • On the other hand, enhanced vertical mixing in the Arabian Sea limits cyclone intensification.
  1. Role of remnants:
  • Cyclones that form over the Bay of Bengal are either those develop insitu over southeast Bay of Bengal and adjoining Andaman Sea or remnants of typhoons over Northwest Pacific and move across south China sea to Indian Seas. As the frequency of typhoons over Northwest Pacific is quite high, the Bay of Bengal also gets higher number of cyclones.
  • On the other hand, the cyclones over the Arabian Sea either originate insitu over southeast Arabian Sea or remnants of cyclones from the Bay of Bengal that move across south peninsula. As the majority of Cyclones over the Bay of Bengal weaken over land after landfall, the frequency of migration into Arabian Sea is low.

What makes Cyclone Titli unique?

Cyclone Titli

Both India Meteorological Department and the RIMES designated as “rarest cyclone” because of its following unique characteristics:

  • North-eastward recurvature (change in direction) over the land: The normal behaviour of the cyclones forming in the Indian seas is that after deriving strength from the moisture in waters such as the Bay of Bengal, they move west, incline in a northerly direction and move out into the sea or land, depending on their origin. However, cyclone Titli recurved in a north-easterly direction over the land. It had made a recurvature away from coastal areas for more than 2 days
  • Retaining its destructive potential after landfall: After landfall, a cyclone loses speed and intensity as it loses the source of energy from warm ocean waters and gradually dissipates. However, cyclone Titli, recurved its path and gained intensity.

Note: Recurving occurs due to air currents in the local atmosphere that push cold air from the poles towards the equator and interfere with cyclone formation. 

How are Cyclones named?

    • In the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily.
    • The tradition of naming cyclones started with hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, where tropical storms that reach sustained wind speeds of 39 miles per hour were given names
    • In 1953, the US weather service officially adopted the idea and created a new phonetic alphabet (international) of women’s names from A to W, leaving out Q, U, X, Y and Z.
    • Male names were included in 1978.
    • The process of naming cyclones involves several countries in the region and is done under the aegis of the World Meteorological Organization.
    • For the Indian Ocean region, deliberations for naming cyclones began in 2000. A formula was adopted in 2004

How has naming a cyclone helped?

  • It helps in the quick identification of storms in warning messages
  • Names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms.
  • Giving names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness

Impact of Cyclone Titli:

The Odisha government, with support from the World Bank National Cyclone Risk Mitigation project, increased disaster preparations including building shelters, evacuation planning, conducting drills and strengthening embankments. It had initiated Mission zero causality for all disasters. However, its Cyclone risk management has been primarily focussed on coastal areas. The unique nature of Titli-its recurvature and retention of intensity even after landfall had posed serious challenge and led to death and destruction in non-coastal areas.

Disaster Management of Cyclone in India

  1.      Pre-Disaster

Structural Measures:

Structural measures include construction of cyclone shelters, construction of cyclone resistant buildings, road links, culverts, bridges, canals, drains, saline embankments, surface water tanks, communication and power transmission networks etc.

Non-Structural Measures:

Non-structural measures include early warning dissemination systems, management of coastal zones, awareness generation and disaster risk management and capacity building of all the stakeholders involved.

  1.      During Disaster: Immediate rescue operations, supply of water, medicines, food and other necessary items, Damage assessments
  2.      Post Disaster: Rehabilitation, Providing financial assistances, arrangements of relief measures.

Government Initiatives

National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP)

Aim: The scheme aims to:

  • upgrade cyclone forecasting, tracking and warning systems,
  • build capacity in multi-hazard risk management
  • Construct major infrastructures including multi-purpose cyclone shelters and embankments.

Principal Components: The major components under the scheme are:

  1.  Community mobilisation and training
  2.  Cyclone Risk Mitigation Infrastructure (construction of cyclone shelters, roads/missing links and construction/repair of Saline Embankments etc.)
  3.  Technical assistance for capacity building on Disaster Risk Management (risk assessment, damage and need assessment)
  4. Capacity Building and knowledge creation along with project management and implementation support

Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP)

  • It is a World Bank assisted project which aims at national capacity development for implementation of comprehensive coastal management in India. Broad objectives of the project include:
  • Cyclone forecasting
  • Tracking and warning systems
  • Cyclone Risk Mitigation and Capacity Building
  • Major infrastructure to be constructed under multipurpose cyclone shelters, access roads, underground cabling and saline embankments
  • Disaster Mitigation
  • Lowering loss of lives, property in vulnerable states

NDMA Guidelines:

  1. Establishment of exclusive eco-system monitoring network to study the impact of climate change
  2. Adoption of Aircraft Probing of Cyclone (APC) facility to fill the critical observational data gaps and significantly reduce the margin of error in predicting cyclone track, intensity and landfall
  3. Establishment of a comprehensive Cyclone Disaster Management Information System (CDMIS)
  4. Establishment of a state-of-the-art cyclone early warning system (EWS) involving observations, predictions, warnings and user friendly advisories
  5. Structural mitigation should be taken up which include- improvement in structural lifeline infrastructure, construction of multi-purpose cyclone shelters and cattle mounds, ensuring cyclone resistant design standards in rural and urban housing schemes, building all-weather road links, bridges, culverts and saline embankment
  6. Management of coastal zones should include mapping and delineation of coastal wetlands, patches of mangroves and shelterbelts and identification of potential zones for expanding bio-shield spread based on remote sensing tools.

Way Ahead

  1. The Early Warning System for cyclones should be strengthened to ensure timely and accurate information about cyclone- its track, intensity, time of landfall and likely impacts.
  2. A rare cyclone like Titli highlighted the lack of impact-based actionable early warning information and prior experience in addressing such disasters. Therefore, research and detailed assessment is necessary combat such disasters in future.
  3. It is important to ensure timely dissemination of warning. IMD’s cyclone alerts should be disseminated by broadcasters to all levels of governance and public
  4. The disaster management authorities should be more proactive in search and rescue operation after a cyclone disaster so that the loss of life can be negated.
  5. There should be proper coordination between the Centre, State and several Government agencies, and trained personnel for prompt and organised response after a cyclone.
  6. Structural measures such as designing and building of robust cyclone proof shelters, ensuring availability of essential infrastructure is important.
  7. Rapid urbanization and increasing encroachment in coastal areas is a major problem. Coastal Regulation zone norms should be strictly enforced.
  8. Awareness generation among all stakeholders is important for cyclone risk mitigation.
  9. Odisha State Disaster Management Authority should learn lessons from Cyclone Titli to evolve measures to minimise impacts in both coastal and non-coastal regions more effectively in future
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