Tropical Cyclone Gaja Moves Closer to Southern India

Tropical Cyclone Gaja moved closer to southern India and strengthened on Wednesday.  At 4:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday the center of Tropical Cyclone Gaja was located at latitude 11.7°N and longitude 83.6°E which put it about 260 miles (420 km) east of Cuddalore, India.  Gaja was moving toward the southwest at 10 m.p.h. (16 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 50 m.p.h. (80 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 996 mb.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja strengthened on Wednesday.  More thunderstorms developed near the center of circulation.  Some microwave images exhibited the appearance of an eyelike feature in the lower levels.  The inner end of a rainband appeared to be wrapping around the center of Gaja.  There were several bands of stronger thunderstorms in the western half of Tropical Cyclone Gaja.  Rainbands in the eastern half of the tropical cyclone consisted primarily of showers and lower clouds.  The storms around the center of circulation were generating strong upper level divergence which was pumping mass away to the northeast of Gaja.  The circulation around Tropical Cyclone Gaja was relatively small.  Winds to tropical storm force only extended out about 65 miles (105 km) from the center of circulation.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja will move through an environment favorable for intensification during the next 24 hours.  Gaja will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  It will move southwest of an upper level ridge.  The ridge will produce southeasterly winds which will blow toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds will restrict upper level divergence to the southeast of Gaja.  They will also cause moderate vertical wind shear, which is probably the reason why most of the stronger thunderstorms are occurring in the western half of the circulation.  The wind shear will slow intensification, but Tropical Cyclone Gaja will strengthen during the next 24 hours.  Gaja could intensify to the equivalent of a hurricane/typhoon.

Tropical Cyclone Gaja will move south of a ridge in the middle troposphere during the next 48 hours.  The ridge will steer Gaja on a track that is a little south of straight westward.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Gaja will approach the coast of southern India in about 24 hours.  Gaja will make landfall in Tamil Nadu between Cuddalore and Nagappattinam in a little over a day.  It could be the equivalent of a hurricane/typhoon when it makes landfall.  Gaja will bring strong winds and it could cause a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet (1.5 to 2.5 metres) at the coast.  Tropical Cyclone Gaja will drop locally heavy rain over portions of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.  Heavy rain could cause flash floods in some locations.