by wu ming
Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:46:20 PM EST
I've been following this for a day or so, and was surprised to see that eurotribbers weren't already on top of it, so here goes (if the tense sounds a bit off, it's because I posted this last night at surf putah):
(image taken from weather underground)
Wow, we live in very interesting times indeed. Although the global media seems to be missing this story completely, Severe Cyclone Gonu is moving straight for the Arabian Peninsula country of Oman, with a predicted storm track that would take it right up the Gulf of Oman to the Straits of Hormuz before curving smack into Bandar Abbas on the Iranian coast.
Both sides of the Gulf are loaded with oil and natural gas infrastructure, which has not been built to withstand either storm surges, hurricane-force winds, or the kind of flooding that a tropical storm can unleash. Such things are unheard of in this part of the world, where dry air from the Arabian Peninsula usually breaks organized storms apart before they make landfall. Since Oman only gets an average of 4" of rain a year, they don't have storm drain systems or much in the way of experience dealing with massive flooding, much less coping with full-on severe typhoons.
Jeff Masters at The Weather Underground has a good overview of Gonu's meteorology, in addition to a bunch of google earth photos illustrating just how vulnerable Omani coastal communities will be if the storm hits as predicted, while the oil geologists at The Oil Drum are busy sketching out the potential ripple effect this might have on global oil markets, given the fact that the oil market is already tight as a drum, production-wise. A lot depends on how much damage, if any, the storm surge has on Oman and Iran's infrastructure, but even if everything comes through unscathed, the effect of stopping traffic through the straits for several days while this storm passes alone could spook the market. Just another reason why we should be trying to get our economy off of our huge dependence on oil.
If the storm somehow manages to thread the needle and get into the warm shallow waters of the Persian Gulf with its structure intact (an extremely unlikely scenario, to be clear), then things get really bizarre. Two US Navy carrier groups, a grounded oil shipping industry, shifting sandbars in the Straight of Hormuz, and a region that has never seen anything like this in recorded history.
As an aside, if we keep seeing these "unprecedented" weather events, at a certain point we are going to have to start thinking seriously about whether our ideas of "normal" or "average" are even going to be meaningful in the near future. I suspect we're going to start seeing a lot more freakish stuff like this as global warming starts to set new parameters of global weather equilibrium.
Man, I really hope that dry air manages to dissipate this storm before it hits Oman. People are not going to know what hit them.
UPDATE - The Oil Drum has a new thread up on Cyclone Gonu's progress. While the storm surge is pretty hard to model since the Gulf of Oman has never seen a weather event like this before, they're saying that current forecast is for about 10-15 feet (3-5 meters) along the Oman and Iranian coasts, with 1-4 feet (0.3-1.2 meters) further up in the Straits of Hormuz, severe wind and rain on the Oman coast, and that "Qalhat (Sur) LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] terminal will be out for 20-30 days and the Mina al Fahal oil terminal will be down for 10-15 days--all of this assuming they are built to US standards." Whether that is the case is anyone's guess at this point, but I guess we'll see soon enough.
Thankfully, it appears that the dry air in the area is weakening the intensity and organization of the storm, which should lessen the impact of the cyclone in a relative sense.