The Southern Indian Ocean island of Madagascar saw a named cyclone Cheneso making a landfall over the coast of Sava region North of Antalaha on Thursday morning. What is special about the cyclone is that it had formed from merger of two numbered cyclones (depressions) vied for control of the vast and largely unchartered ocean between Africa and Australia for days together.

These waters roughly represent the area where the Malaysian Air Flight 370 with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board is believed to have vanished. Seasonal disturbances in these stretches during April and May are responsible for creating freak swells (kallakkadal) along the peninsular coasts of India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu), hundreds of kilometres North of the Equator. 

Individual storms 90S and 96S before merging to form cyclone Cheneso.

Individual storms 90S and 96S before merging to form cyclone Cheneso.

Fascinating screen grabs

Chennai-based freelance photographer V Karthik captured vivid screen grabs from satellite maps of the two numbered cyclones (90S and 96S) competing for space in the waters not far from the Antarctic Circle. 96S gobbled up contender 90S to set up Cheneso. In meteorology, it’s a given that two competing systems cannot prevail within a specified area of activity. 

The command area of cyclones can run into thousands of kilometres depending on strength and intensity. This gets progressively lower with less-evolved systems such as deep depressions, depressions and low-pressure areas in that hierarchical order. It is common for low-pressure areas to yield space to the other during the monsoons in the Arabian Sea/Bay of Bengal. 

Super typhoon Hinnamnor 

But it is not that usual with tropical cyclones since fusion of two such large systems requires continuous stretch of deep ocean waters. The Pacific and the Indian Oceans (minus the North Indian Ocean that comprises the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal) lend themselves to this phenomena.  The latest instance was when super typhoon Hinnamnor (category-5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale of storm intensity) in the West Pacific in September 2022 ate up a tropical depression to grow as a monster. The Japan Meteorological Agency had upgraded cannibal Hinnamnor as a ‘violent’ storm. The typhoon had an atmospheric pressure of 920 hectopascals at its centre and packed winds of up to 270 kmph. 

V Karthik has been a storm watcher, apart from being an industrial and wildlife photographer. He is well informed in astronomy, and is also a specialist in restoring old photographs and glass negatives. Over a 15-year period, he has restored free of cost thousands of pictures of Sri Ramana Maharshi and his ashram at Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu.