INCREASING VULNERABILITY OF RICE FARMING TO CYCLONIC STORM SURGES IN MYANMAR’S AYEYARWADY DELTA

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Year:
2016
Type of Publication:
In Proceedings
Keywords:
cyclone tracks, Bay of Bengal, climate change
Authors:
Hirano, Akira
Abstract:
Storm surge is one of the deadliest parts of a tropical cyclone. Unlike Bangladesh, which has repeatedly and notoriously been hit by major cyclones, its immediate neighbor to the southeast—Myanmar has been less frequently visited by cyclones due to its geographical setting in relation to most likely cyclone tracks in the Bay of Bengal. Yet, 2008 Cyclone Nargis of category 4 with peak winds of over 165 km/h took an unusual track eastward and swept into the low-lying Ayeyarwady delta in central Myanmar, which is the most vulnerable and densely populated part of the country. It caused the catastrophic damage to human lives and properties. It should equally to be noted that it devastated the rice farming community in the delta region. By using the database of archived global cyclone tracks—International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA, I generated the spatial distribution of cyclone track frequency map summarized by 1 degree grid and found that more cyclones tracked eastward in the last 20 years (1996–2015) as compared to the previous counterpart (1976–1995). This tendency agreed with a reported result from an atmospheric model experiment. The deadly path of Cyclone Nargis was considered one of those very rare cases in the history. However, combined with the observed sea-level rise and the conversion of mangrove forests to agricultural lands, rice farmers—particularly smallholders sitting just 3 meters above sea-level will face the increasing vulnerability to cyclonic storm surges as more cyclones are likely to head eastward to Myanmar.
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