The Indian Express


Head Line: Explained: Why Cyclone Fani is an unusual storm

1) Mains Paper I: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.


  • A powerful cyclonic storm named Fani (pronounced Foni) is headed towards the Odisha coast, with its landfall forecast near Puri Friday.
  • Expected to generate storms with wind speeds as high as 200 km per hour, it has the potential to cause widespread damage in Odisha and neighbouring states.

Averting danger:

  • The last time such a powerful cyclonic storm had emerged in the Bay of Bengal at this time of the year, in 2008, it had killed more than 1.25 lakh people in Myanmar.
  • But that was mainly because of the lack of a sophisticated warning system and enough logistical preparedness to evacuate people.
  • Fani, on the other hand, has been continuously monitored ever since it developed southeast of Sri Lanka about a week ago, warnings have been issued after every few hours to fishermen and people living in coastal regions, and a massive emergency preparedness has been mounted.
  • In the last few years, India has impressively managed disasters caused by cyclones, most remarkably during Cyclone Phailin of 2013, which was even stronger than the approaching Fani.

Cyclone Fani, the outlier:

  • The eastern coast of India is no stranger to cyclones.
  • On an average, five to six significant cyclonic storms emerge in the Bay of Bengal region every year.
  • The months of April and May just before the start of the monsoon, and then October to December immediately after the end of the monsoon, are the prime seasons for tropical cyclones.
  • Yet, Fani is a little outlier, mainly on account of its strength, and the route it has taken.
  • Cyclones emerging in April-May usually are much weaker than those during October-December.
  • There have been only 14 instances of a “severe cyclone” forming in the Bay of Bengal region in April since 1891, and only one of them, which formed in 1956, touched the Indian mainland.
  • The others all swerved northeast to hit Bangladesh, Myanmar or other countries in the southeast Asian region.
  • Since 1990, there have been only four such cyclones in April.
  • Fani is not just a severe cyclone but an “extremely severe cyclone”.
  • Tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are graded according to maximum wind speeds at their centre, like:
    • Depressions - 30 to 60 km per hour,
    • cyclonic storms - 61 to 88 kph,
    • severe cyclonic storms - 89 to 117 kph
    • very severe cyclonic storms - 118 to 166 kph
    • extremely severe cyclonic storms - 167 to 221 kph
    • super cyclones 222 kph or higher
  • Fani is, thus, unusual, and that is mainly because of the place it originated, very close to the Equator, and the long route it has taken to reach the landmass.

Cyclone formation and intensification:

  • Cyclones are formed over slightly warm ocean waters.
  • The temperature of the top layer of the sea, up to a depth of about 60 metres, need to be at least 28°C to support the formation of a cyclone.
  • This explains why the April-May and October-December periods are conducive for cyclones.
  • Then, the low level of air above the waters needs to have an ‘anticlockwise’ rotation (in the northern hemisphere; clockwise in the southern hemisphere).
  • During these periods, there is a zone in the Bay of Bengal region (called the inter-tropical convergence zone that shifts with seasons) whose southern boundary experiences winds from west to east, while the northern boundary has winds flowing east to west.
  • This induces the anticlockwise rotation of air.
  • Once formed, cyclones in this area usually move northwest.
  • As it travels over the sea, the cyclone gathers more moist air from the warm sea, and adds to its heft.
  • A thumb rule for cyclones (or hurricanes and typhoons as they are called in the US and Japan) is that the more time they spend over the seas, the stronger they become.
  • Hurricanes around the US, which originate in the vast open Pacific Ocean, are usually much more stronger than the tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, a relatively narrow and enclosed region.
  • The cyclones originating here, after hitting the landmass, decay rapidly due to friction and absence of moisture.

Cyclone Fani in Odisha: In situ origins:

  • A big difference between the strengths of cyclones in April-May and October-December is that the former originate in situ in the Bay of Bengal itself, barely a few hundred kilometres from the landmass.
  • On the other hand, cyclones in October-December are usually remnants of cyclonic systems that emerge in the Pacific Ocean, but manage to come to the Bay of Bengal, considerably weakened after crossing the southeast Asian landmass near the South China Sea.
  • These systems already have some energy, and gather momentum as they traverse over the Bay of Bengal.
  • April-May is not the season for typhoons in the west Pacific Ocean.
  • Most of the typhoons in west Pacific in northern hemisphere form between June and November.
  • That is why almost all the cyclones in the Bay of Bengal in April-May period are in situ systems.

 How Cyclone Fani grew muscle:

  • The in situ cyclonic systems in the Bay of Bengal usually originate around latitude 10°, in line with Chennai or Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Fani, on the other hand, originated quite close to the Equator, around latitude 2°, well below the Sri Lankan landmass.
  • The forecast landfall on the Odisha coast is at a latitude of almost 20°.
  • It has traversed a long way on the sea, thus gaining strength that is unusual for cyclones originating in the Bay of Bengal in this season.
  • It was initially headed northwestwards, towards the Tamil Nadu coast, but changed course midway, and swerved northeast away from the coastline to reach Odisha.
  • That has given it even more time on the sea.
  • If it had remained on its original course, and made a landfall over the Tamil Nadu coastline, Fani would only have been a normal cyclone, not the extremely severe cyclone it has now become.
  • The recurve it has taken gave it more time over the sea and has ensured that it has gathered unusual strength.


Head Line: Clarity in Puducherry

2) Mains Paper II: Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.


  • The Madras High Court on Tuesday settled the question on who ought to run the administration in the Union Territory of Puducherry in favour of the legislature and the elected government.

Supreme Court ruling:

  • SC has ruled that the office of the Lieutenant Governor should not interfere in the day-to-day administration when an elected government is in place.
  • The court also clarified that government secretaries should report to the Council of Ministers headed by the chief minister on all official matters and are not empowered to issue orders on their own or upon the instructions of the administrator, namely the LG.
  • The ungainly confrontation involving Puducherry LG Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy should henceforth cease.

Background of the case:

  • A Congress MLA, in 2017 has filed a petition which suggested that the LG ran a parallel government in Puducherry by conducting review meetings with officers and giving on-the-spot orders.
  • The LG’s office responded by claiming that the law bestowed on it powers to act independently of the government.
  • It also sought to draw a parallel with the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The Supreme Court observed:

  • The HC did not accept the claim and clarified that the laws that concerns the two regions are different:
    • Puducherry is governed by provisions of Article 239A of the Constitution
    • while Article 239AA pertains to Delhi.
  • Article 239AA has specific provisions that limits the administrative remit of the Delhi government since the NCT of Delhi is also the seat of the central government.
  • Such exceptions are irrelevant in the case of Puducherry.
  • The elected government is entrusted with the task of running the administration and it should be left to the electorate to punish the government if it fails to execute its mandate.
  • The LG, an appointee of the Centre and the representative of the President, ought to exercise powers only in the event of a constitutional breakdown.
  • This is the spirit that underlies parliamentary democracy, which the Madras High Court invoked.
  • The court said: “The Central government as well as the Administrator (the term used in the Constitution to refer to the LG) should be true to the concept of democratic principles.
  • Otherwise, the constitutional scheme of the country of being democratic and republic would be defeated.”

Way Forward:

  • The UT Act was formulated in 1963 and much has changed in Puducherry — and Delhi — since.
  • The electorate perceives the legislature as the rightful body for making law and formulating policy and holds the elected government accountable for administration.
  • As the court has said, the LG and the Council of Ministers must “avoid logjam and facilitate the smooth functioning of the government in public interest, leaving political differences apart”.


Head Line: Explained: What is 99942 Apophis? Why are scientists excited?

3) Prelims:

  • Mains Paper III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology

Why in news:

  • On April 13, 2029, a near-Earth asteroid will cruise by Earth, about 31,000 km above the surface.
  • Although the flyby is expected to be harmless, the international asteroid research community is excited, with scientists drawing up plans 10 years in advance on how they will observe it with optical and radar telescopes, and discussing what they hope to learn.

What is Asteroid ‘99942 Apophis’:

  • On April 13, 2029, a near-Earth asteroid will cruise by Earth, about 31,000 km above the surface.
  • The asteroid, called 99942 Apophis, is 340 m wide.
  • At one point, it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  • It is rare for an asteroid this size to pass by Earth so close.
  • Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 metres, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.
  • Among potential lessons from Apophis, scientists are hoping they can use its flyby to learn about an asteroid’s interior.

Apophis is one of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, and scientists also hope their observations might help gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.

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