Storm Hits Oman

Today’s post is by Bill Chameides, Chief Scientist at Environmental Defense.

The hurricane season began on June 1, and we are all waiting with some dread to see what this year will bring. Will it be a relatively mild season like last year, a devastating one like 2005, or something in between? An ominous sign is that we have already seen two tropical storms in the region: Andrea, which formed almost a month before the season began, and Barry, which formed on the first day of the season.

Last week I read that Oman was hit by Tropical Cyclone Gonu. ("Hurricane", "typhoon", and "cyclone" are all names for the same thing.) I know that Asia and Australia are regularly hit by tropical storms, but the Arabian Peninsula? Is that normal? I didn’t know, so I decided to do a little investigating. Here’s what I learned.

Tropical storms do form over the Indian Ocean, although not as commonly as they do over the North Atlantic and Western Pacific. According to NASA, these storms form most often off the east coast of India, and make landfall over the Indian subcontinent. But Gonu formed over the Arabian Sea, to the west of India. Typically the storms that form over the Arabian Sea are weak and unremarkable.

Gonu was anything but unremarkable. It appears to have been the most intense storm on record for the Arabian Peninsula. On June 4, 2007, Gonu had winds exceeded 131 mph, giving it Category 4 status, and was headed for the coast of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz.

Global warming is known to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. Was this particular cyclone a result of global warming? No one can say. But with global warming, we are likely to see more and more unusually intense storms.

The storm in Oman was potentially bad news for gasoline prices here in the U.S., since about 20 percent of all oil shipments pass through the Strait. By the time Gonu reached the coast of Oman, it had weakened to a Category 1 storm. There was no major disruption to the flow of oil, but the damage was significant, with an estimated 49 dead and widespread flooding. Gonu then headed north to Iran where it killed 12 people, but again caused no major damage to oil supplies.

The tale of Gonu reminded me of a couple of things:

  • We tend to focus on hurricanes that form in our part of the world, but they also are found elsewhere. While we had a mild hurricane season last year, China and Australia were pummeled.
  • Events in one part of the world can have local repercussions. You might think, at first glance, that a tropical storm over the Arabian Peninsula would not be relevant to life in the U.S. But we live in a global community. A devastating storm in that part of the world can have a direct impact on how much we pay at the gas pump.

Global warming means change for all of us, regardless of where the storm hits.

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  1. futurewatcher64
    Posted September 6, 2007 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Now, it’s global warming responsible for any extreme weather event? Did you know a Tornado a few years ago hit Salt Lake City? Was this because of global warming? In fact in 1998 a Tornado Warning was issued in Tucson, Arizona, the first in 30 years. Was this global warming?

    Not every strange weather event is global warming, and not even major ones like Hurricanes or Typhoons in places typically not associated with them. This means only that the situation was right for them to occur in these areas. A freak storm is a freak storm, and nothing more.

  2. Posted September 7, 2007 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps you didn’t read the article. Bill says:

    “Global warming is known to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. Was this particular cyclone a result of global warming? No one can say. But with global warming, we are likely to see more and more unusually intense storms.”

  3. fred1
    Posted January 26, 2008 at 12:34 am | Permalink


    you need to go back and review thermodynamics 101….as i am sure you know…one of the driving forces of weather are temperature differences between air masses. Global warming tends to make the Arctic especially warmer, but the tropics stay the same temperature i am sure you know there is much undisputed data to this fact. since storms are formed for most part due to temperature and moisture differences between air masses, global warming would tend to make the temp differences between regions more similar, therefore decreasing the intensity of storms. i welcome your response so i can more understand this science.

  4. Posted January 28, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    It never ceases to amaze me that uninformed people can speak in this tone to a scientist who received his Ph.D. from Yale and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Click on Bill’s name to read his credentials. What are your credentials in science?

    If you’d honestly like to know why global warming causes more intense storms, visit our Extreme Weather site.