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India's shocking failure to provide hurricane warnings for Pakistan

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 12:44 PM GMT on June 28, 2007

A very serious failure occurred on the part of India's Meteorological Department (IMD) yesterday, when they failed to provide adequate warnings for a devastating tropical cyclone that hit Pakistan. Cyclone 03B, which struck the coast of Pakistan at 02 GMT June 27, has killed at least 17 and left 250,000 homeless in that nation, according to early news reports. Under mandate from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), India is responsible for warning the shores of all nations along the North Indian Ocean, including Pakistan. Cyclone 03B was at least a strong tropical storm when it hit Pakistan, and was probably a Category 1 hurricane. Microwave satellite imagery near the time of landfall (Figure 1) shows a well-developed tropical cyclone with spiral banding and a cloud free eye. Yet IMD never even gave the storm a name, and merely classified it as a a "deep depression," with winds less than tropical storm force (39 mph). At 00 GMT June 26, two hours before landfall, the position of Cyclone 03B given by IMD was probably in error by at least 60 miles. One hour later, at 01 GMT, with landfall just one hour away, the IMD shipping advisory said that landfall was still 12 hours away. The IMD website, with the warnings, was offline and not available for approximately twelve hours beginning with the landfall period. It's important not to judge IMD before all the facts are known, but I can't fathom any excuse that can account for what appears, at best, to be criminal incompetence. I hope the WMO fully investigates this complete failure of India's Meteorological Department to protect the lives and welfare of those living along the Pakistani coast. Much more information on this dismaying story is presented in today's View From the Surface blog, which I have used to construct this short summary.

Figure 1. Microwave satellite image of Cyclone 03B at 0113 GMT June 26, 2007, about one hour before landfall. Note the cloud free eye and well-developed spiral banding, indicative of a strong tropical storm or weak Category 1 hurricane.

Atlantic tropical update
Clouds and showers associated with a westward-moving tropical wave over the Bahamas, near the east coast of Florida, show no signs of organization. With wind shear at 20-30 knots, I'm not expecting any development of this disturbance. The next best chance of development in the Atlantic may be Monday, when a cold front will push off the U.S. East Coast. We'll have to watch the area between Florida and North Carolina when the remains of the front stall out over the Gulf Stream. Also, the area just north of Panama in the Southwest Caribbean needs to be watched beginning Saturday, when wind shear values are forecast to drop below 5 knots.

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.