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Nivar better for city as a weather system

On the anniversary of Cyclone Vardah four year later, Chennai witnessed another cyclone in Nivar. According to weather bloggers, the two cyclones were fundamentally different, with Nivar coming at a different time and factors differently for Chennai as a whole.

Nivar better for city as a weather system


Cyclone Vardah made landfall in Chennai on December 12, 2016, as a west-moving cyclone. According to weather blogger Pradeep John, this perpendicular movement through the city brought harsher winds to the city. Just before making landfall, the cyclone intensified. But Nivar was significantly weaker as a west-northwest moving cyclone, and weakened just before making landfall.

“One thing that must be noted about Vardah was that the cyclone was within the city for only one day and was very intense at the time. Sustained wind speeds for three minutes were recorded at 122 kmph, gusting up to 139 kmph. Nivar was felt in the city for about three days and had a sustained wind speed of about 70 kmph,” he said, adding that Nivar also weakened owing to natural barriers, unlike Vardah.

When analysing the northeast monsoon in Chennai in 2016 and 2020, Vardah came during a severe drought in the city, but brought very little rains. In contrast, Nivar came after a very good monsoon, and helped improve Chennai’s storage further with sustained heavy rainfall in the city.

“Cyclone Nivar came close to the Chennai coast twice. It was recorded once at being 80 km and then 150 km from the city. So it brought good rains even before making landfall. We had three days that amounted to an average of 300-400 mm of rainfall in the city. It made a good NEM season even better for the city, with Poondi, Chembarambakkam, and Red Hills lakes almost at full capacity at the end,” said weather blogger Srikanth K.

Nearly 15 lakh trees were uprooted in Chennai during Vardah, while only around 350 trees were uprooted during Nivar. Srikanth classifies Vardah as a disaster but calls Nivar a healthy weather system that would help Chennai’s water preparedness in 2021. 

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