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Friday, December 11, 2009

Tropical Cyclone Ward forms quickly; heads for southern India

A tropical low pressure system developed into tropical depression 05B this afternoon and quickly grew into a tropical storm. Ward is heading to the northwest toward the Indian coast. Landfall is expected sometime Sunday afternoon or evening local time between Pondicherry and Nagappattinam. There is a slight potential that Ward will grow to a Category 1 cyclone before making landfall.

TN coast on alert as Cyclone ‘Ward' prowls Bay of Bengal (Hindu Business Line)
The Tamil Nadu coast has been put under cyclone alert on Friday after the previous day's depression intensified double-quick into a deep depression and further into a cyclonic storm, named ‘Ward.'

India Meteorological Department said Tropical Cyclone Ward lay centred 550 km southeast of Nagapattinam and 700 km south-southeast of Chennai on Friday afternoon.

The system is likely to move in a northwesterly direction towards Tamil Nadu coast during the next two days. The IMD's outlook is exactly in agreement with that of the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) and the Tropical Cyclone Page of the US Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Centre (FNMOC).

India Meteorological Department is also looking at the potential that westerly winds could act as a steering current driving Ward to the northeast and away from the coast.

The IMD has rightfully expressed doubts about the onward movement of ‘Ward' as did international models thanks to the persistence of westerly flows from a prevailing western disturbance affecting northwest India.

It said that the satellite-derived steering wind in the upper levels would go to suggest a northerly to northeasterly movement of the system, which could cause it to avoid taking a swipe of the Tamil Nadu coast.

But a precipitation model of the US National Centres for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) tends to suggest that the westerlies would cause Tropical Cyclone Ward to steer itself north-northeast after taking a shot at the Chennai coast over the next two days.

According to the NCEP, the rampaging westerlies would drive away ‘Ward' into coastal Bay of Bengal waters in a north-northeasterly direction all the way into the Bangladesh/Myanmar coast, and fling the weakened system into the hinterland.

The question in the forecast seems to be how strong the westerly flow is from the disturbance affecting northwest India. If this flow is strong enough then the storm can be pushed into teh Bay of Bengal and northward toward Bangladesh. At this time, however, all official forecasts point to landfall on the Tamil Nadu coast.

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