Severe Cyclone Gonu Prepares to Strike the Gulf of Oman

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:34 AM GMT on June 05, 2007

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An unusual event is happening over the next 48 hours, as the first tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds, and major hurricane-force winds at that, is approaching the Gulf of Oman, to strike the eastern coast of Oman, curve northward, and make landfall on the coast of Iran. In the tropical cyclone best tracks and the modern era of weather satellites, there is no record of such an occurrence.

Today, Steve Gregory and I will be guest-hosting the blog, while Jeff is on vacation, to provide current information on Severe Cyclone Gonu. I'll provide some background on the areas that are currently forecast to be in the path of this dangerous cyclone, followed by Steve's Monday evening surge forecast and assessment based on the most recent JTWC track and intensity forecast, which currently calls for sustained winds of 115 kt when first passing near the coastline of Oman.

Updates during the day will be posted on my blog, The View From the Surface.

As I write this it is late in the evening in the central US, but the day has already begun in the Middle East. Distant cirrus from Gonu have already started to cloud the Gulf of Oman, and over the course of the day there, conditions will deteriorate along the eastern coast of Oman as the tropical cyclone approaches. Overnight, the core of Gonu will approach the tip of Oman, with the eye passing offshore just before dawn, and the bulk of the surge occuring along the eastern coast some time shortly before that. By midday the next day the worst of the storm will have passed the southernmost portion of the coast, and the core of the storm will be directly east of Muscat, the capital of Oman, home to over half a million people. Right now the forecast has the storm passing just offshore, but if the track shifts further east, the most damaging winds of the cyclone will remain over water. This will lessen the damage to Oman, but will likely result in a higher intensity when making landfall in Iran.

--Margie Kieper

* * * * * * *

Those who live along the Gulf of Mexico are well aware of what it means for a major hurricane to make landfall. Even if they've never experienced it themselves, they have relatives or members of their community who have experienced it. And in many places they can see the damage that remains.

Imagine that you live directly on the Gulf, but in a place where it hardly ever rains, and where a hurricane has never hit, for at least a generation -- for more than sixty years. Your community and many like yours are situated not only directly on the water, but near or in large dry riverbeds on the coastal plain, which is a narrow strip of sandy shoreline that is the dropoff for the three-thousand-foot mountain range behind it. Even many of the roads up into the mountains are in these dry riverbeds, which course through deep canyons as they rise into the heights. You don't have any idea what it might mean to experience winds of over 100 miles per hour, whipping up sand, and torrential rain against these mountains that can turn the riverbeds into conduits for dangerous flash floods. And you don't have any idea what storm surge is, and can't conceive of wind-driven high waves that could break against the shoreline and leave nothing behind.

This is the eastern coast of Oman, where communities line the shoreline which is shortly going to be experiencing a major hurricane. We can only hope that the danger is understood and that all of these communities have evacuated to higher ground and a safer location.

Below are two images of the city of Sur, showing how the community is built right along the water's edge:

Sur


closeup of Sur


The first image below shows one of the large winding dry riverbeds, and the second close-up shows a village built right where this riverbed empties into the gulf.

dry riverbed


community built in riverbed


These images show an industrial facility on the shoreline right at the tip of southeastern Oman, with an airstrip and a small community -- all of which could be gone in twenty-four hours, from surge, if the storm passes close to this area as currently forecast.

southeastern tip of Oman


closeup of southeastern tip of Oman


* * * * * * *

Steve Gregory's Monday Evening Forecast for Gonu

Severe Cyclone GONU in the Arabian Sea is currently heading NW at 14KTS (Faster than the JTWC Forecast) and is located 135NM SE of the eastern most 'tip' of Oman, and 180NM SE of Muscat. The storm is now a very strong CAT 4 - with an estimated pressure of 904mb, and wind gusts to 155Kts.

Based on imagery over the last 6 hours - the storm is under-going an Eyewall Replacement cycle, and so the first early morning VIS image (right) shows the eye is now covered with cirrus. As a new eyewall is developing (based on Micro-wave imagery) and will complete this cycle right about the time it gets to the Oman Gulf.

The track the storm takes as it nears the Oman coast is extremely critical in terms of intensity as it is entering the Gulf - and how severe the damage will be. There ocean heat content of the water on the SE FACING side of Oman is lower - and if the storm travels close to that location (as shown on the NAVY chart) the storm will likely weaken further during the day to a low end CAT 3, and then hit the Iran coast as a strong CAT 1 on Wednesday.

If the storm tracks 50-100NM NORTH of the coast as it enters the Gulf of Oman - though the water is shallower there, the SST's are very high (32degC) and with the storm further away from land, and over very warm water - it is likely to hold onto CAT 3 intensity for an additional 4-6 hours as it moves NW.

There is a large oil facility and large airport located right at the eastern 'tip' of Oman - and I counted at least 6 major 'ports' on Satellite imagery along the Oman coast up to 100 miles WNW of Muscat.

On the opposite side of the Gulf is the Iranian coast - with numerous 'cove inlets' each with loading docks and port facilities. At least 9 facilities I could count from the Iran/Pakistan border west to the area I show landfall (Magenta Arrow on the diagram below). Offshore platforms were also seen in a few locations.

Steve Gregory Gonu surge forecast


The Storm surge shown (10-15 ft) will almost certainly hit the Iran coast - even if the storm weakens to a strong CAT 2 late Tuesday (NY time). The Eastern tip of Oman will likely also experience 10-15 foot surge due to the close proximity of the storm track. Further up the Gulf, before reaching the Straits of Hormuz - storm surge heights of 1-4 feet are expected on the Oman side, and 4-possibly 6 feet on the Iranian side near the entrance to the Straits. Significant wave heights will be 20-30 feet, dropping to 15 feet near the Straits.

This is an unprecedented event. NO CYCLONE has ever entered the Gulf of Oman. And there are no custom 'storm surge' models available for that area. This forecast is based on my experience and subjective analysis of the seabed slope and storm surge interaction with the sea floor. Considering the region has never experienced a hurricane, let alone a strong one it is highly unlikely the loading facilities or platforms were constructed to withstand the forces - both wave action and wind force - that they will experience. Significant, damage will occur. How much long term damage, and the volumes associated with it - can not be determined at this time.

--Steve Gregory

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623. HurricaneFCast
1:14 AM EDT on June 06, 2007
Yellow= Cat 1 Winds 74-95mph
Green = Tropical Storm Winds 39-73mph
Light Blue = Tropical Depression Winds <39mph
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622. HurricaneFCast
1:14 AM EDT on June 06, 2007
a
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621. ic4ibod
5:05 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Does anyone know if parts of Muscat have lost power? No problems in MQ or Ras Al Hamra.
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620. ic4ibod
5:12 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Does anyone know if parts of Muscat have lost power? No problems in MQ or Ras Al Hamra.
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619. ic4ibod
5:05 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Expatmummy - surely you know its a matter of saving face! By saying its a category 4 it's serious enough to warrant everything closing down, but, as with everything else, it still leaves scope for the UAE to go one better! Apparently Dubai is the only place in the world with cat 6 storms!

I haven't left the house yet; do you know if Starbucks is open in MQ?

Ramsabi - know where you're coming from; I've been in Kerala for mango showers and monsoon. But don;t forget, we just can;t handle this amount of water in Muscat. Has anyone seen the Sulta Centre floating by?
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618. mulk123
5:10 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
iran will get soaked
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617. HurricaneFCast
1:09 AM EDT on June 06, 2007
expat- The guy is misinformed.. Gonu is a cat 1, if that now, he's continuously weakening.
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616. mulk123
5:10 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
for iran, lots of rain
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615. expatmummy
4:55 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Hi Makato and ic4ibod, we are in Azaiba. Have you been listening to the Radio, Fiek has just had a guy from the local met office on who has said the Gonu is currently a catorgary 4 storm! I thought we were down to cat 1 levels.
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614. ramsabi
4:54 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Just back from Qurum beach to my home in Azaiba. I am an Indian and compared to what I have seen in South India during cyclone season, this is so far a drizzle accompanied by a light breeze. The rains that we had a few months back was much stronger.
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612. matako
4:42 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Morning from qurum, muscat - not the heaviest rain i've seen in 15 years i've lived here but certainly more than sufficient to get the wadis overflowing. haven't ventured out yet so no sense of general damage and no idea of conditions further afield. wouldn't expect any structural damage from wind although flooding from the wadis will no doubt cause a few problems. the sea state is in range 2mts~3mts (can see from house which is 200mts back from sea and some 15mts above sea level). no sign of traffic on roads - beachfront road is deserted. back to mopping up :-(

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611. ic4ibod
4:33 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Similar to expatmummy, we had plenty of wind, rain and lightning about 4am but since then its more like what'd be called 'miserable' in the UK. I'm not complaining although I do feel a bit guilty for not going into the office.

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610. expatmummy
4:37 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Wind has just picked up, car port is wobbling, and the rain is horizontal.
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609. bappit
4:25 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Bappit: I am speaking today with Dr. Niehls Freunk, specialist in hurricane psychology at the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Freunk, what do you make of the contrasting attitudes taken towards Barry and Gonu in recent blogs.

Freunk: Hmmmmmmm... The difference is striking. First, Gonu:

An unusual event is happening over the next 48 hours, as the first tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds, and major hurricane-force winds at that, is approaching the Gulf of Oman, to strike the eastern coast of Oman, curve northward, and make landfall on the coast of Iran.

At the risk of being nit picky, maybe Gonu is not all that unusual. Perhaps other cyclones with major hurricane force winds have approached this area before--and also weakened. True enough, it is now close to the Gulf of Oman with hurricane force winds, but it has weakened significantly while getting there. The satellite image is not impressive, and the forecast is for continued weakening, a minimal hurricane in 12 hours or less.

Bappit: Had Gonu not been a cat 4 or 5 earlier would we be taking as much notice of it as we now are?

Freunk: Category 4 or 5 hurricanes create what I like to call a halo effect on how we regard storms. Yes, definitely. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Margie Kieper takes the NHC to task for calling Barry a tropical system.

Bappit: The nerve of those guys!

Freunk: Indeed. She says:

Putting aside the unwelcome hype and "cry wolf" potential, maybe it's best to just remember the ROFL moments associated with this chapter...

I don't remember the NHC calling Barry a dangerous storm, and maybe it actually was a tropical system if only briefly. There is no question that the system was associated with sustained winds of tropical storm speeds. Ironically, one might argue that if anyone has cried wolf, it is Margie Kieper with Gonu in the Sea of Oman. Hear the female instinct for care taking in this quote.

This is sad -- the very area that I documented last night, at the extreme southeastern tip of Oman, is going to be the hardest hit area from Gonu.

Bappit: Of course Gonu still poses a threat.

Freunk: But the fact is that Gonu is no longer the beast that captured our imagination. It is in fact forecast to begin dissipating while still over water.

Bappit: Can we learn anything from these recent events?

Freunk: Since drawing a conclusion from these anecdotes is hardly scientific, here is my unscientific conclusion. We tend to exaggerate the significance of storms that have captured our imagination and underestimate the significance of storms that have not captured our imagination.

Bappit: Capturing our imagination? Is there a more scientific way of putting that?

Freunk: Of course: We need to be aware of when the adrenaline has kicked in and the adrenaline is blogging versus when we are disappointed that the adrenaline has NOT kicked in and it is our disappointment that is blogging. Of course, being rational is no fun.

Bappit: Thank you, Dr. Freunk, for your interesting insights. Blogging in the blog from the Weather Underground, this has been an interview with Dr. Niehls Freunk, specialist in hurricane psychology.
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608. expatmummy
4:29 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Hi again, update from Muscat.We were woke this morning at about 3am as the rain started (it is rare enough here to wake you when it does). It has rained continuously since. The wadis are a full with run off from the mountains, the waves are quite high, can see them from my roof about 200 metres away. However we haven't been evacuated, and there is no mention of it on the english speaking radio station. We have been told to sit tight and not drive around. The wind is quite strong, but not blowing things over yet. Sorry I am not more acurate, don't have anything to measure with.
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607. Fshhead
4:26 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
ic4, How are you??? Glad to see you weathering your 1st hurricane safely. Like I told you when they are weak or you just get brushed they are actually pretty cool!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
603. ic4ibod
4:13 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
It's 8:15 here in Muscat. Plenty of rain, a good stiff breeze, but I don't see any structural damage. I'm in a reasonably sheltered part of town.

Last forecast I saw was that the storm is tracking further south now, passing close to Muscat, but considerably weakened.

Any one else in Muscat out there?

What do the experts say?
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602. fliptill
12:11 AM EDT on June 06, 2007
maybe more in central flor. on thurs. We really need it!!!
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601. fliptill
12:04 AM EDT on June 06, 2007
I think wednesday, here in clearwater we should get some rain but lake okee should get more. Any thoughts on all the tropical moisture in the gulf?
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600. groundman
3:26 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Thanks Dewfree, I got pointed in the right direction by seminolesfan, Levi32, and WPBHurricane05, who REALLY know what they are talking about.

Also I have relatives named Madden and Juius so..............I can remember it with oscillating fan?? nevermind. LOL

gnite all, today has been an interesting day on here.
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598. dewfree
3:06 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
also Exellent Dr.Master very very excellent!!!!
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597. dewfree
3:05 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
very good Groundman very good
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596. stormy3
2:54 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Thank You, I've been wanting to ask that question all day.
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595. cajunkid
9:49 PM CDT on June 05, 2007
Dr Steve Lyons is using CIMMS on TWC...I guess they have about as much as we do in regards to Gonu
Member Since: July 10, 2005 Posts: 3 Comments: 1279
594. groundman
2:39 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Posted By: i12BNEi at 2:05 AM GMT on June 06, 2007.
Hello all
Please tell me what MJO is.Thank you.


OK, in totally laymans terms, totally, it's Madden Julian Oscillations, includes several atmospheric and oceanic variables which combined with a formula evidently gives certain areas of the earth at different times an enhanced capability for storm development above and beyond and seemingly superceding our normal atmospheric conditions such as fronts and lows and highs and African Waves. This link goes to the pdf summary from NOAALink
And this one goes to the NOAA page which has the forecasts and the previous MJO readings for certain time periods.Link

Probably not entirely correct but you get the gist. It's a combination or different set if you will, of weather and temperature variables which plugged into a formula gives probablilities of storm or other weather development in certain areas.

OK, hit me with your best shot, where did I screw up in the explanation?? LOL

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591. HurricaneFCast
10:43 PM EDT on June 05, 2007
Juderson- It is a Cat 1.

FLBoy- Can you give me a link to those updated numbers? Thanks in advance! :)
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588. JamaicanGir
9:22 PM EST on June 05, 2007
test
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587. i12BNEi
2:04 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Hello all
Please tell me what MJO is.Thank you.
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586. Hellsniper223
1:57 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
I don't suppose there is a Doppler out of Masqat that we can view?
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585. Patrap
8:45 PM CDT on June 05, 2007
The US Military has lotsa assests in Oman.All out of Harms way.They a BIG ally.



Masirah Island includes one of four air bases which the Omani government allows the U.S. military to use for refueling, logistics and storage, though little has been revealed publicly about U.S.-Oman military ties.

The Masirah base hosted U.S. B-1B bombers, C-130 transports and U.S. Special Forces AC-130 gunships during the war in Afghanistan and the United States has continued to have basing rights on the island.

U.S. forces are preparing for Gonu "just like anyone would prepare for such a cyclone," said Lt. Denise Garcia, a spokeswoman for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, which is based in Bahrain. She declined to provide more details.

She said U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the region were also taking precautions to avoid Gonu, but there was no major overhaul of operations.

The U.S. military has offered its assistance to Oman, but so far, Omani authorities have not requested help, she said.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128279
584. groundman
1:32 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Posted By: WPBHurricane05 at 1:28 AM GMT on June 06, 2007.
Good catch groundman!


Thanks, I did something right finally, found a mistake, LOL.
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583. WPBHurricane05
9:27 PM EDT on June 05, 2007
Good catch groundman!
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
582. WPBHurricane05
9:25 PM EDT on June 05, 2007
Wpb do u have the link a close friend of mine lives in dubai?

Link
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581. groundman
1:20 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
And am I doing something wrong or does NOAA's 40 day previous link to MJO go back to 2005?? Link
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580. groundman
1:15 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Who said MJO suddenly changing to green, I found it on NOAA for June 20 which isn't too far away a light green in the GOM if I read it correctly?
Link
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579. flibinite
1:11 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Hi, all... once in a while poster back again, from NY.

Wow... looking at Patrap's Infrared link... did you see the way the eye of Gonu bounced north as it hit Oman at Sur? That should save Muscat from quite a lot of what wind is left. :-)

JUSTCOASTING... I'm trying to remember the time about 10 years ago or so when there were four hurricanes in the Atlantic at the same time. Aw heck, I'll look them up. Found it... four hurricanes occurred at the same time on September 25, 1998... Hurricanes Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl.

Jo
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578. groundman
1:13 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
When did Barry start forming?? I could back and check out the blogs but thought someones memory might be better than mine, was it like the beginning of last week or the week before?
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577. weatherblog
1:12 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
Hmmm...tough one.
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575. JUSTCOASTING
1:05 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
dont we have military personel in the area of gonu
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574. BoyntonBeach
1:04 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
HurricaneFCast - Looks like the last band of showers is passing through right now.. Where are you at ?
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573. Inyo
1:02 AM GMT on June 06, 2007
It looks like Gonu is holding his own right now, really.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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