Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sandy and Neelam: The need for a Worldwide Tropical Storm index

Sandy and Neelam have been unwelcome visitors in our household in Bangalore. With close family ties to family and friends in Chennai and on the US East Coast, we have been regularly watching TV and the Sandy crisis map put out by Google over the last few days.

The older generation comes to a quick conclusion: cutting of trees all over, and pollution! What else do you expect?

Was the ferocity of Sandy increased by climate change? Visit for one report. I looked for other information and found that geophysicists have studied the question: is there a steady increase in storm activity over the decades, given that there has been a small rise in the ocean surface temperature? Visit Journal of Geophysical Research for a scholarly study on the trend in Atlantic Hurricane Activity covering 1851-2007. They report a periodic variation with a 60 year period. What are the possible causes of such a periodic variation? The variation in solar radiation reaching the earth? Sunspot activity? Brief searches did not get any answers to these questions. offers a discussion on global warming and hurricane activity from a Govt Lab. reports an Indian study focusing on the North Indian Ocean, where we have cyclones similar to the hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

I feel that we need a worldwide Storm Activity Index (SAI) to be compiled from now on. It would support research on possible effects of global warming. It would in fact do more. Remember the clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that used to warn us about the remaining time to (nuclear) midnight! The SAI will similarly communicate to the lay person a sense of increasing concern, related to global warming. Scholars could look over the last ten or more decades to see what the trend was in the past. Awareness of the dangers of global warming over the whole of the world population is a necessity, and SAI would be a step in this direction. I would vote for the base to be set at 100, representing the level of activity seen during the first decade of the 21st Century.

Srinivasan Ramani


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