Better forecasting and mitigation strategies are needed to minimise damage from tropical cyclones, writes Peter J. Webster in Nature Geoscience.
Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar in May 2008, left 1.5 million people severely affected. The Indian Meteorological Department claims it was clear "days ahead" that a severe tropical cyclone was headed for the Irrawaddy delta.
But this information produced little response from Myanmar and was downplayed in the press — resulting in far more casualties than necessary.
Webster points out the limited means of communication and few established evacuation routes in developing countries. He suggests more effective forecasts can be achieved by extending the time horizon of forecasts, adding storm surge forecasts to the mandate of Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres and developing resilient disaster plans.
Webster highlights Bangladesh as an example of best practice. In November 2007, when Cyclone Sidr struck, a national emergency network was established and storm shelters built.
The country received extended forecasts from the US-based Louisiana State University and, as a result, evacuated more than two million people.