Tropical Cyclone Vardah Reaches Hurricane Intensity

Tropical Cyclone Vardah intensified into the equivalent of a hurricane on Saturday as it moved across the Bay of Bengal toward India.  At 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday the center of Tropical Cyclone Vardah was located at latitude 13.0°N and longitude 84.8°E which put it about 290 miles (470 km) east of Chennai, India.  Vardah was moving toward the west at 13 m.p.h. (21 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h) and there were gusts to 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 974 mb.

The circulation of Tropical Cyclone Vardah is well organized, but the distribution of thunderstorms is asymmetrical.  There is a broken ring of thunderstorms around the center of circulation.  Outside of that ring most of the thunderstorms are forming in the western half of the circulation.  It appears that an upper level ridge to the north of Vardah is producing easterly winds which are causing moderate vertical wind shear.  The wind shear seems to be the primary cause of the asymmetry of the convection.  The thunderstorms are generating upper level divergence which is pumping out mass to the west of the cyclone.

The environment around Tropical Cyclone Vardah is marginal for further intensification.  Vardah is moving over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  However, the moderate vertical wind shear may be strong enough to inhibit further intensification.  There are some indications that the upper level winds may be getting stronger and the shear could increase.  If the shear increases, then Tropical Cyclone Vardah could start to weaken even though it is over warm water.

The same ridge that is causing the wind shear is also steering Tropical Cyclone Vardah toward the west and that general motion is expected to continue.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Vardah could make landfall near Chennai, India in about 36 hours.  Tropical Cyclone Vardah will bring gusty winds and locally heavy rain to portions of southern India.  The heavy rain could cause flooding and mudslides.  Vardah will also cause a storm surge along the coast near and to the north of where the center makes landfall.