Cyclone Michaung

Cyclone Michaung


Cyclone Michaung wreaked havoc on Chennai, bringing intense rainfall and exposing the vulnerabilities in the city’s infrastructure. Beyond the natural disaster, the city’s preparedness, power infrastructure, and long-standing issues such as unplanned construction and public indiscipline played crucial roles in exacerbating the impact.


GS – 01, GS – 03 (Physical Geography, Disaster Management)



Mains Question:

Discuss the implications of climate change on cyclone intensity and the importance of addressing long-term issues for sustainable disaster management. (150 words)


  • Cyclones, characterized by rapid inward air circulation around a low-pressure area, bring about violent storms and adverse weather conditions.
  • Originating in warm tropical or subtropical waters, cyclones are classified into tropical cyclones and extratropical cyclones.

Tropical Cyclones:

Steering Wind Flow -以주착~: 훼0 麴0 - Direction 0[ the Storm

  • Violent storms originating over tropical oceans, tropical cyclones move towards coastal areas, causing extensive destruction with violent winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surges.
  • Favored conditions for their formation include a large sea surface with temperatures above 27°C, the Coriolis force, small variations in vertical wind speed, a pre-existing low-pressure area, and upper-level divergence.
  • Tropical Cyclone Stages:
    • Relies on the transfer of water vapor and heat from warm oceans, resulting in the formation of massive cumulus clouds
    • Mature Stage: Involves intensification with vigorous thunderstorms, generating a warm ‘eye’ at the center and highly turbulent cumulus thundercloud bands.
    • Weakening occurs when the source of warm, moist air diminishes, especially after landfall or passing over cold waters.
    • Nomenclature of Tropical Cyclones: Cyclones are named under the World Meteorological Organization’s guidance, involving contributions from countries in the region. For the Indian Ocean region, a naming formula involves eight contributing countries, including India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.
    • Worldwide Terminology: Tropical cyclones are referred to differently globally, such as typhoons in the China Sea, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and tornadoes in West Africa and southern USA.
  • Extratropical Cyclones:
    • Also known as mid-latitude depressions or temperate cyclones, extratropical cyclones form above mid-latitudinal regions where polar and tropical air masses meet and create fronts. They are less violent than tropical cyclones and move from west to east.

Cyclones in India:

  • Tropical cyclones originating over the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea impact Indian coastal states.
  • These cyclones cause destruction through strong winds, torrential rains, and storm surges, affecting states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, and Gujarat.

Management of Cyclones:

  • Effective disaster management involves both structural and non-structural measures.
  • Structural measures include cyclone-resistant infrastructure, while non-structural measures encompass early warning systems, coastal zone management, and awareness campaigns.
  • The National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Project (NCRMP) addresses these challenges with World Bank assistance.
  • A common weather phenomenon in India, a western disturbance is an extratropical cyclone originating in the Mediterranean region. It brings winter rain to northwestern India, impacting agriculture and contributing 5-10% of India’s annual rainfall.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Infrastructure Woes Exposed
  • Climate Change and Urban Planning

Infrastructure Woes Exposed:

  • As the rain intensified, power was cut off as a precautionary measure, revealing vulnerabilities in the power infrastructure.
  • The need for such drastic measures indicates long-standing issues of inadequate investment in maintenance and repair of essential facilities.
  • The aftermath saw toppled trees, waterlogged roads, and disrupted transportation, underscoring the broader impact on the city’s functionality.

Climate Change and Urban Planning:

  • Cyclone Michaung’s Attribution: While the direct link between climate change and the cyclone is a matter for attribution science, warmer seas are acknowledged as contributors to stronger cyclones.
  • Chennai’s vulnerability is heightened by years of unplanned construction, zoning violations, and public indiscipline, particularly littering.
  • Managing the aftermath of such issues requires a sustained effort, challenging the unrealistic expectation of immediate solutions from a single government.
  • Chennai’s ability to weather the storm was partly due to improved warnings, better civilian infrastructure, and collective memories of the 2015 floods.
  • Post-Michaung, the focus shifts to addressing social issues, starting with the fair treatment of sanitation workers, predominantly comprising Dalits and Adivasis.
  • Urging for a swifter pace in addressing underlying problems to prevent resorting to extreme measures like cutting power for safety.

Way Forward:

  • As Chennai recovers from the aftermath of Cyclone Michaung, it becomes imperative to address the root causes of its vulnerabilities.
  • The city must learn from its past and embrace sustainable, long-term solutions to build resilience against future calamities. In doing so, Chennai can not only mitigate the impact of natural disasters but also foster a more inclusive and resilient urban environment.