Historical Perspective

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The loss of life, property and human suffering caused by tropical cyclones in coastal areas in various parts of the globe are well known. These disasters are, on occasion, particularly severe in the Bay of Bengal region. The northern part of the Bay of Bengal is known for its potential to generate dangerous high storm tides, a major killer when associated with cyclonic storms. In the past, out of 10 recorded cases of very heavy loss of life (ranging from about 40,000 to well over 200,000) in the world due to tropical cyclones, 9 cases were in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea (5 in Bangladesh and 3 in India and 1 in Myanmar). The world's highest recorded storm tide of 45 feet occurred in this region (1876, Bakherganj cyclone near Meghna Estuary, Bangladesh). These facts amply illustrate the importance of an efficient cyclone warning service in this region.

Recognizing the above facts, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) jointly established the Panel on Tropical Cyclones in 1972 as an intergovernmental body. Its membership comprises countries affected by tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Originally, its member countries were Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Later Maldives joined this Panel in 1982 followed by Sultanate of Oman in 1997.

The Panel is one of the five regional tropical cyclone bodies established as part of the WMO Tropical Cyclone Programme (TCP) which aims at promoting and coordinating the planning and implementation of measures to mitigate tropical cyclone disasters on a worldwide basis. The main objective of the WMO/ESCAP Panel on Tropical Cyclones is to promote measures to improve tropical cyclone warning systems in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The basic purpose of the operational plan is to facilitate the most effective tropical cyclone warning system for the region with existing facilities. The plan records the agreed arrangements for standardization of operational procedures, efficient exchange of various data related to tropical cyclone warnings, issue of cyclone advisories from a central location having the required facilities for this purpose, archival of data and issue of a tropical weather outlook and tropical cyclone advisories as agreed by consensus at the WMO as part of the World Weather Watch for the benefit of the region. For this purpose, there are Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre (RSMC)- Tropical cyclone and Tropical Cyclone Warning Centres (TCWC) for different regions.