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Bangladesh reeling from Cyclone Sidr; Landmark climate change report issued today

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 6:01 PM GMT on November 17, 2007

Tropical Cyclone Sidr has left immense devastation and suffering in its wake, after the Category 4 storm smashed ashore in Bangladesh with sustained winds near 150 mph. At least 2,000 people are dead, 5,000 injured, and over three million homeless. The cyclone's winds and storm surge of at least 20 feet destroyed over 273,000 buildings and killed over 242,000 livestock. A nation-wide power outage continues in Bangladesh, making communications difficult with the hard-hit areas.

Figure 1. Population density map of Bangladesh for regions less than 10 meters in elevation (red areas) and higher than 10 meters (green areas). The path of Tropical Cyclone Sidr took it inland over the Sundarbans Forest, the least populated region of the coast. However, the more heavily populated provinces just to the right of the Forest, Barguna and Patuakhali, received a storm surge of 10-20 feet. A storm surge of 20 feet was reported at Charkhali, at the head of a narrow estuary connected to the ocean. Image credit: CIESEN, Columbia University.

Sidr's death toll
The death toll from Sidr will go much higher, making the storm the deadliest tropical cyclone the world has seen since Hurricane Mitch of 1998. Mitch dumped up to 30 inches of rain on Honduras, triggering flash floods that killed over 9,000 people. I don't think Sidr's death toll will surpass Mitch's, as the government of Bangladesh was quite successful getting the warning out and evacuating those who would go. The days when a cyclone will kill tens of thousand of Bangladeshis, such as occurred when 140,000 died in the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone, are probably done. Bangladesh holds ten of the top twenty spots on the list of the world's deadliest tropical cyclones of all time.

Landmark IPCC report issued today
The Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their final "Synthesis Report" today. This massive effort, repeated just once every seven years, summarizes the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change, the likely impacts, and options for how to respond. All literate citizens of the world should read the 23-page report.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.