Cyclone Gonu, in the Arabian Sea, was our first Category 5 storm of the year yesterday. Now, as I write this, it is still a very strong storm and is about to set an ominous record. As Margie Keiper puts it over at the Weather Underground:
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.
And there is a lot of damage that could be done in the area, which is likely to be highly unprepared for such a powerful storm. I’m on the road but when I can will be watching this closely…..
UPDATE: The NASA Earth Observatory has posted this spectacular picture of Gonu from yesterday when the storm was en route to its peak intensity:
NASA says there hasn’t been a storm as strong as Gonu in the Arabian Sea since 2001. But the storm in that year, 01 A, was a weak Category 4 cyclone. By contrast, Gonu reached Category 5 yesterday. Could it be the strongest storm ever recorded in the Arabian Sea? I’m going to peruse the Unisys best track records to see if I can find out….
UPDATE 2: The Unisys best track database for North Indian cyclones does not provide any storm intensities before 1972. With that rather large caveat in mind, let me say that after surveying each year in the database, I have been unable to find any recorded Arabian Sea storm that was as strong as or even close to as strong as Gonu was yesterday (140 knots; Category 5). It seems likely, then, that we have just seen a record both for Arabian Sea cyclone intensity as well as for minimum sea level pressure in this particular part of the world. And of course, Gonu’s arrival in the Gulf of Oman is also an apparent record….