Hudhud Makes Landfall

Hudhud Makes Landfall

Cyclone Hudhud is pounding the eastern seaboard of India today, with winds of up to 120 mph, heavy rains and flooding, especially in the city of Vizhakapatnam (“Vizag”), a major port and naval base. 400,000 people have been evacuated from coastal villages that are home to 14 million people. The Indian Ocean is a cyclone hot spot. Of the 35 deadliest storms in recorded history, 27 have come through the Bay of Bengal — and have landed in either India or Bangladesh. Meanwhile, in Japan, Typhoon Vongfong is sweeping through Okinawa and is on its way to the island of Kyushu, with winds of 110 mph. 

What’s in a Name?: Confused about the difference between a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon? They are the same weather phenomenon, differing only in location! We use the term hurricane in the Atlantic and N.E. Pacific, whereas in the N.W. Pacific the same disturbance is called a typhoon. Cyclones occur in S. Pacific and Indian Ocean (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/cyclone.html).

Hudhud is for the Birds: Curious about this cyclone’s name? Named by the country Oman, hudhud is the colorful-crowned hoopoe bird (Upupa epops), found through Afro-Eurasia. While Americans have been naming hurricanes since 1953, cyclones have long been anonymous affairs. It was not until 2004 that eight countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Maldives along with Myanmar, Oman, Sri Lanka and Thailand) came together with a list of 64 names for cyclones. Each country gets its turn, and the names are not in alphabetical order. Watch out Nilofar (Pakistan), Priya (Sri Lanka) and Komen (Thailand) in the coming months!

Staying Safe: India’s disaster response is improving. Last year, a million people were evacuated out of the path of Phailin, the strongest cyclone in a decade, minimizing deaths to 25. Growing up in the coastal city of Calcutta, at the head of the Bay of Bengal, I recall being carried home from school through terrifying, swirling, waist-high waters. Here’s wishing that the people of Andhra and Odisha stay safe! 

For news and photos of today’s cyclone, check  on G+ or Twitter for #hudhudcyclone. 

#ScienceSunday  

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44 Responses to Hudhud Makes Landfall


  1. I wish everyone in its path wisdom and good judgment so they can stay safe.

  2. Rajini Rao says:


    Florence Gamiao it’s never a good idea to second guess Nature. Hope that people stay out of harm’s way. 


  3. Last year’s typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) left many indelible lessons here in the Philippines. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.


  4. Rajini Rao Your posts are packed to the brim with thing I wasn’t aware of and this is no exception.

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks, Mike! I didn’t know how cyclones were named either. 


  6. I feel very sorry for the villagers, who have to rebuild everything from the scratch after such events. Hope this time the disaster relief reaches effectively, the needy. 

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    It’s similar in the US- hurricanes seem to make a beeline for trailer parks. 


  8. Let me add a tidbit:


    The USA used to only use women’s names, till an outcry that it was sexist. Now, it’s been found that hurricanes with women’s names cause much more damage and deaths than those with men’s names. Why? Because people assume they will be less dangerous than ‘guy’ hurricanes, and don’t prepare as well. Sheesh. Talk of self-fulfilling…

  9. Jim Carver says:


    India typically has two tropical cyclone seasons per year, one in May and the other during the Oct-Nov. time period. This is atypical for most areas of the world that experience severe tropical weather. The reason for this is that the monsoon season does not promote an environment for the formation of such systems. As the monsoon retreats southward at this time of year, then the environment becomes favorable again for tropical development.


    This one could have been much worse, but was impeded in development two days ago by cooler water. Yesterday Hudhud moved over warmer water again and began strengthening. Fortunately there wasn’t time for the storm to strengthen a great deal or we would have been looking at a Cat4 or possible 5 ‘hurricane’.


  10. No hurricane can wipe out human stupidity.

  11. Rajini Rao says:


    Jyoti Q Dahiya the study reporting that hurricanes with female names are deadlier because of sexism did get a lot of press, and was published in PNAS!  http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8782.short


    But it’s been hammered for poor statistics as explained by Ed Yong (his blog also has the author’s response) : http://goo.gl/dV97yw

  12. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks for the explanation, Jim Carver . Do you know if the Typhoon Vongfong on the Japanese coast came from the same weather system that spawned Hudhud, or did they form separately but coincidentally? 

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Jack Enright I asked a leading authority (Barney the dinosaur) and he said Mr. Sun steers hurricanes. He also wrote a song about this.


    Barney Mister Sun Song [Best Original HQ]

  14. Jim Carver says:


    Rajini Rao They are totally separate events. The western Pacific has had an extremely active season as Japan was just cleaning up from Phanfone (whew, all these two syllable names!). Of course the eastern Pacific has had a record season as well. This is likely due to higher than normal water temperature in that region (generally along the Mexican coast). Many of the El Niño models got a false signal that this was the start of an EN event, but so far have been fooled.


    The Bay of Bengal does not produce the most of even the most powerful cyclones. The reasons that there has been so much loss of life in this region are that the population density is very high, the topographical relief is low and structures are not built with the same amount of integrity as you might have in more developed countries such as Japan. 

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Makes sense, thanks Jim. Some of the “deadliest storms recorded in history” come from the Bay of Bengal, for exactly the reasons you mention- population density and lack of emergency response. Fortunately, the latter is getting better of late. 

  16. Jim Carver says:


    Rajini Rao Yes, things are improving and we wish them the best.


    My opinion on naming: Drop the proper name system. It’s not a person, it’s a weather event. I hear weather forecasters (not me) saying things like ‘him’ or ‘her’, when after all it’s an ‘it’. Then you have the problem of the same names being used for multiple years leading to confusion unless it was so bad that the name is retired. Katrina and Wilma are names that you will never see again for example.


    My solution would be totally generic, first you would have the year, 2014, then the letter of the alphabet, then another letter to denote region. (or maybe the last two switched, I don’t care) So for Katrina it would have been 2005K-A, and you could add a number to show intensity. So if we were talking Katrina when it was at Cat5, it would be: 2005K-A-5. (‘A’ stands for Atlantic, of course)

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    Perfectly logical, but I suspect that Katrina rolls off the tongue (and sticks to memory)  better than 2005K-A-5 🙂

  18. Jim Carver says:


    True, but with my system you get a timestamp. I had to make sure my example was right and confirmed it was 2005. Maybe it would be something forecasters could start using and still keep the folksy titles for the public. (Like there’s really anything ‘folksy’ about a deadly hurricane anyway.)

  19. Jan Moren says:


    Here in Japan they just get numbered sequentially each year. So the one hitting us right now is simply “19” in Japan while it’s “Vongfong” in foreiqn media.

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    Jan Moren that’s really interesting! A good compromise with Jim Carver ‘s suggestion. 

  21. Jim Carver says:


    Jan Moren Yeah it’s TS 19w now and is transitioning into an extratropical Low. Quite a bit better than earlier in the week at Cat5, 180 mph winds and 900 mb.


    Hopefully and probably, we have seen the worst for this year, but I can’t rule out…

  22. Jim Carver says:


    There’s another factor I failed to mention and it’s quite obvious really: if something does form in the Bay of Bengal, then it has no outlet to the sea and open water. It is forced to hit land somewhere. Unlike in the Atlantic where we see many hurricanes re-curve and head out into the cold waters of the northern Atlantic.


    So you can say if a cyclone develops in the Bay, it’s going to hit in a bad place.

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    Cyclones are much more likely to form in the Bay of Bengal compared to the Arabian Sea, off the west coast of India. Water temps are higher in the BOB and flat coastlines are easily inundated. On the western side there is a mountain range (Western Ghats) that blocks the cyclones.


    This Quora conversation is a bit too technical for me, but may be of interest: http://goo.gl/krOhgc


  24. Your post just blew me away?

  25. Jim Carver says:


    In general you would have more wind shear and more dry air to deal with. Certain geographical situations are more conducive than others. Here on this side of the pond it’s the Bay of Campeche that is notorious for spinning them up. Not so this year though, we’ve been under the influence of a weak El Niño-like pattern with a lot of wind shear.

  26. Thomas Kang says:


    I propose naming storms after death metal bands. We had no major storms in Korea this year, which was a relief. We call them 태풍 (taepoong), which is basically “typhoon.”


  27. How about stringing syllables like they did in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed? People can pronounce it, but it has no preexisting meaning. I suggest 4 syllables, simply because almost no language commonly has words that long, and it would be easy to screen out meaningful combinations.

  28. maria nasir says:


    Very interesting and informative post, as always, Rajini Rao 🙂 I always wondered who named these storms and hurricanes !

  29. Rajini Rao says:


    What creative solutions to naming storms and natural disasters! On the other hand, people of a certain generation named their kids after weather- I know of a Summer Raine, for example 🙂

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    maria nasir I quite fell in love with the Hoopoe bird, who is apparently called hudhud in the Omanese language (Arabic?). Does that name seem familiar at all to you? I hear there are cyclones to be named Bulbul (another little bird) and Titli (butterfly)! 


  31. Those are not good names, in case they turn out to be strong cyclones! Who can take a cyclone called titli seriously?

  32. Rajini Rao says:


    Haha, good point Jyoti Q Dahiya . Hopefully, Titli will turn out to be no more than a brisk breeze. 

  33. maria nasir says:


    Hudhud is the name I’ve always known it by, Rajini Rao 🙂 When I was a child, it used to be a frequent visitor in my parent’s garden. Though I haven’t seen it in urban areas for years now !


    We are so used to people getting named after seasons in India and Pakistan, remember all the Sawans, Barkhas, Badils, Bahars and Rimjhims around us :))


    Giving natural phenomenon our names, and acquiring names from them is maybe an unconscious effort to feel one with nature and lessen the fear factor ! 🙂

  34. Rajini Rao says:


    maria nasir that is a lovely perspective! 🙂


  35. maria nasir Hudhud aka Hoopoe needs open ground (where it forages by probing with its long beaks), and buildings with holes in the walls where they prefer to nest. Their have been expanding their geographic range and as such are actually increasing and not declining. If there are fewer of them in an area, it could be due to decrease in open grounds where it can forage or due to lack of suitable buildings where it can nest. Interestingly it is the national bird of Israel. 


  36. Rajini Rao The affliction of Eastern coasts of landmasses may have something to do with the direction of earths rotation around its axis. Normally the atmosphere moves with the earths rotation but when you have a large cyclone/hurricane/typhoon, the whole weather system will have an angular momentum which will resist movement and the earth will move underneath it (from West to East) and so we will experience the weather system as moving from East to West. So there would be a net higher rate of movements towards west, meaning more landfalls in the Coromondel coast. [Note that the phenomenon of cyclonic systems making landfall on the East Coast is true across the different continents).  


  37. The winds appear to be slowing down – good news. The damage is still substantial, though.


    India is better prepared to face natural disasters of this kind, in terms of educating people and evacuation. It accounts for the relatively low fatalities, compared with the magnitude of the cyclone.

  38. Rajini Rao says:


    Able Lawrence it is good news to hear that the hoopoe is not endangered and ranges across so many continents. It’s such a beautiful bird.


    Good points about the earth’s rotation and the east/west coast effects! 

  39. Rajini Rao says:


    Vivax Solutions I’ve been hearing that the damage has affected the poor more predominantly, because their homes/huts were not stably built. The emergency response has been quite impressive! 


  40. 21 people dead. 😦


    Yes, the poor suffer more.


  41. Vivax Solutions The Indonesian-Andaman Tsunami was a wake up call for india and that led to better disaster response plans. If you can respond to Tsunami, cyclones give you ample time.  BTW, a senior of mine (school) got gallantry award for non-stop helicopter flying to rescue people in his undergarments (his quarters in Nicobar was affected, and lost all his stuff)

  42. Bill Collins says:


    I must confess to feeling like an ignorant American now. I thought hurricanes only hit the US. (I knew there were monsoons in Rangoons but duh! They’re the same.) Oh man, I hope the destruction is small and everyone is okay.

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