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$100/Barrel Oil? - Severe Cyclone Gonu Headed Towards Persian Gulf

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.

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i don't know much about this subject, but i figured that people here might be interested to know about it. 5 days with no shipping through the straits of hormuz alone should be a notable data point on the whole discussion about the global oil market's elasticity, i would think.
by wu ming on Tue Jun 5th, 2007 at 11:51:13 PM EST
was surprised to see that eurotribbers weren't already on top of it,

I expectred Jérôme to post a story on it, but he is very busy.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:30:11 AM EST
Open Thread discussion of the cyclone:

Monday evening

Tuesday evening

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 01:29:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by wu ming on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 02:06:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As an "aspiring climatologist", I was not surprised that the 2005 active Carribean season was not repeated in 2006. I can remember the active 2004 typhoon season (while living in Japan), which was not as strongly followed later. But this year might be very active again somewhere... I expect rude suprises.

Were the Arab-Persian coasts known for extreme cyclone activity before?

Hearing about the weather back in Europe, sometimes I hardly recognize what I know... How is the weather in France now, by the way?

by das monde on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 02:12:07 AM EST
the arabian sea generally has very low cyclone activity, this is a really freakish storm. oman generally gets about 4" of rain a year, and reports are that they may get 40" over the next day or two.

dunno about france, but we've got unseasonably lovely high 70s/low 80s and breezy weather here in california.

(apologies to all for the lack of metric, but the american public school system abandoned it after 1st grade, and all i ended up learning was that my pinkie finger was about a centimeter wide).

by wu ming on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 02:23:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want your figures to mean anything to a metric reader, you may want to go to, say, http://www.worldwidemetric.com/metcal.htm :
4" becomes 10cm. and 75°F becomes 24°C.
by balbuz on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 02:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Were the Arab-Persian coasts known for extreme cyclone activity before?  

This cyclone is unprecedented.  First in known history.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 04:54:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stormy passages followed by cool, rainy spells. Due to improve over the coming weekend.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:22:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is very important news.  

A serious hiccup in world oil supplies.  

Also, a serious disaster for Oman.  Some roads designed for 50-year event floods have already been washed away, and it is barely starting.  Most inhabited areas seem to sit on alluvial fans, and, frankly, the likelihood right now is they too will be washed away.  (Along with a lot of local oil infrastructure.)  

Very good analysis over there.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 04:51:13 AM EST
me being a contributing editor over there was not enough? I'm peeved, let me tell you.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 06:42:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]


The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 08:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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.

If you look at the Weather Underground picture that opens the diary, you'll notice that Gonu hit category 5 about 500Km from the tip of Oman, but has since fizzled down and is forecast to be Category 1 when it makes landfall. I remember seeing some quotation on The Oil Drum to the effect that the hot dry air from the Arabian Peninsula had broken down the structure of the cyclone to the point where the eye was no longer visible in ordinary light or IR, but only microwave imaging.

The image is from Margie Kieper's Weather Underground blog:

This morning has seen a rapid collapse of Gonu, both in terms of organization and intensity, due to dry air entrainment, as it approaches the southeastern tip of Oman. The core and eye are still visible on microwave imagery, but not on visual or IR.
But Category 1 is still a hurricane
It does appear that with most of the convection now on the west side of the cyclone (see below), and with onshore winds, that the communities I talked about on Jeff's blog, along the extreme southeastern tip of Oman, are being hit hard, and likely are experiencing surge and waves, rain, and wind. Unless the cyclone turns to the north, this northeastern-facing shoreline will continue to be pounded by onshore winds as the cyclone moves closer to land today.


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 05:49:29 AM EST
Wind speed is all very well but it is the rain that causes the most damage and loss of life.  Oman could get 10 years worth of rain (40") in 24 hours, roughly comparable to London getting 6 meters of rain over the same time frame.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 09:08:42 AM EST
Forty inches?  (For nonUSians, that's 1,016 mm.)  Um, where'd you get that number?

For comparison purposes, Katrina dumped 16 inches in the most heavily drenched areas.  Hurricane Floyd, which was considered to have produced extremely heavy rainfall and caused heavy flooding in North Carolina in 1998, produced 19.06 inches (48 cm).

The two cyclones (including Cyclone Eline) that hit southern Africa in 2000 produced a two-month maximum rainfall of 1365 mm, or 53 inches, resulting in the catastrophic Mozambique floods of that year, but I want to emphasize that that's a two month total that includes two cyclones and a number of other heavy-rainfall weather events.

So I'm not exactly saying that I don't believe your 40-inches number, I'm just a little curious about who might have predicted it, because it seems a little high to me....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 09:33:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I, too, am curious about where this business of forty inches comes from.  This is a hurricane, and hurricanes are nasty, but forty inches is an out-of-this-world figure.  It's not uncommon to hear of snowfall on that level over a period of several days or a couple weeks.  (Think of Upstate New York last winter.)  But rainfall from a hurricane?  Difficult to believe.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 11:31:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to this forecast from The Oil Drum, most of the area will see fewer than 6 inches of rain.

The darker central area is "greater than 6in", maybe up to 10in?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:04:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds about right.  I don't know much history of cyclones in the Pacific or the Indian, but this storm is certainly no Katrina or Hugo or Andrew.  (If this were on par with Katrina, the oil markets would be going nuts.)  That's not to say that we won't be talking about damage.  It's a hurricane.  Hurricanes, even when weak, produce considerable damage.  But storms of this sort are quite common where I'm from.  Floridians, as I'm sure some here at EuroTrib have heard, actually throw parties during storms like this.  Hell, I've been in a car during a storm like this.

The flooding, especially combined with the electricity, is the real danger.  That's where people often get killed during hurricanes.  They get electrocuted, or they drive off the road (because they can't see it) and get trapped in their cars.  My understanding is that Oman and Iran have their first-responders and militaries ready, and have evacuated the truly vulnerable areas (barrier islands and so on).  And my sense is that they'll be able to handle it.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 12:25:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Might this be a misunderstanding of measurements.

Perhaps they meant 40 cm?

That would be about 15 inches.

God know that the English system confounds communication with the rest of the world.  And the Brits only complicate it.  I enjoyed having a conversation with a friend who talked about some big guy they knew that must have been 15 stone.  Now there's a measure that no one but our British friends (and the Irish) understand.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 01:03:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CNN


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 11:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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