Cyclone Fani: a rare one to hit Indian shores

A look at cyclones that have originated in the Northern Indian Ocean and how Fani marked a rare cyclone

May 03, 2019 09:58 pm | Updated 10:10 pm IST

PURI, 03/05/2019: Cyclone Fani makes landfall in Odisha coast in Puri district.

PURI, 03/05/2019: Cyclone Fani makes landfall in Odisha coast in Puri district.

Cyclone Fani, one of the biggest storms in years to make landfall in India, slammed the city of Puri in Odisha with winds raging up to 200 kmph on Friday.

Though, in terms of maximum windspeed, Fani is only the seventh highest among cyclones to have originated from the Northern Indian Ocean since the 2000s, very rarely do such cyclones which were formed in the month of April over the Bay of Bengal go on to make landfall in India. This makes Fani a unique case of a cyclone that originated in April.

The following image shows the path of all severe cyclones ( maximum wind speed of >47 knots) to have originated in the month of April over the Bay of Bengal between 1891 and 2017.


As can been seen from the image, only once before, April 1966 to be precise, did such a severe cyclone hit the Indian mainland.

A rarity

April is an unusual month for a cyclone in India. Of the 1,528 recorded depressions/cyclonic storms/severe cyclones over the North Indian Ocean since 1891, only 45 (3%) occurred in the month of April. Thats the fifth least among all months after July, February, March and January.

Table shows depressions (maximum wind speed between 17 and 33 knots) / cyclonic storms (between 34 and 47 knots) / severe cyclones (>47 knots) occurred between 1891 and 2019 over the North Indian Ocean.


Observations from the table

1. Depressions (those which does not get converted to bigger cyclones) are lowest at the start of a year and gradually increase and peak at August before dropping again in number terms.

2. But, cyclonic storms and severe cyclones follow a slightly different pattern. Their numbers first peak in May and then dip only to peak again in October-November.  

Interestingly, the probability of a depression getting converted into a Cyclonic Storm/ Severe Cyclone is very high in April. 44% of all storms in April were Severe Cyclones, a number that is less only than the number for the month of May (48%).

Table shows the share of recorded depressions/cyclonic storms/severe cyclones in various months between 1891 and 2019


How big is Fani?

The Indian Meteorological Department had issued a warning that the Cyclone Fani will reach the Odisha coast on Friday afternoon with maximum speed of 170-180 kmph going up to 200 kmph or 108 knots. How does this maximum speed compares to other cyclones since 2000 in the North Indian Ocean?

In the 178 depressions/cyclonic storms/severe cyclones recorded since 2000, Fani's Maximum Sustained Surface Wind of 108 knots was the seventh highest.

When only the month of April is considered, Fani's maximum speed is the highest recorded since the 2000s,  closely followed by Cyclone Mala which was formed over Bay of Bengal and proceeded to make landfall in Myanmar in 2006.  

Table shows the top 25 cyclones in terms of maximum wind speeds recorded since 2000.


It does not necessarily mean that higher the wind speed, the damage would be higher. Some of the cyclones listed never made landfall in India or had weakened before the event.

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