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.