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What are twin cyclones?

GS Paper 1:

Topics Covered: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclones etc.



A pair of tropical cyclones, Asani & Karim (one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere) one on each side of the equator, have been formed.

  • These are cyclones originating in the same longitude and now drifting apart.

Cyclone Asani has formed in the Bay of Bengal.

Cyclone Karim has created a path in the open seas west of Australia.


What are twin cyclones?

The interplay of the wind and the monsoon system combined with the Earth system produces twin cyclones.

They are basically caused by equatorial Rossby waves.

  • Rossby waves are named for famous meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby who was the first to explain that these waves arose due to the rotation of the Earth.
  • They are huge waves in the ocean with wavelengths of around 4,000–5,000 kilometres.
  • This system has a vortex in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern hemisphere, and each of these is a mirror image of the other.
  • The vortex in the north spins counterclockwise and has a positive spin, while the one in the southern hemisphere spins in the clockwise direction and therefore has a negative spin.
  • Both have a positive value of the vorticity which is a measure of the rotation.


How are twin cyclones formed?

  • When the vorticity is positive in both Northern and Southern hemispheres, as is the case with Rossby waves, the air in the boundary layer, whichis moist, is lifted slightly. That is enough to set off a feedback process.
  • When the air is lifted slightly, the water vapour condenses to make clouds. As it condenses, it lets out the latent heat of evaporation.
  • The atmosphere warms, this parcel of air rises, and a positive feedback is set off by this process.
  • The warmer parcel of air can rise further because it is lighter than the surrounding air, and it can form deeper clouds.
  • Meanwhile, moisture comes in from both sides. This leads to the formation of a cyclone if certain conditions are present.


Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO:

Karim and Asani are “twin” cyclones not only because they formed at the same time in the same general area but also because they were formed primarily from the same “parent” circulation:  the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO.

  • The MJO is a large cluster of clouds and convection, around 5000-10,000 kilometres in size.
  • It is composed of a Rossby wave and a Kelvin wave, which is a type of wave structure that we see in the ocean.
  • On the eastern side of the MJO is the Kelvin wave, while on the western, trailing edge of the MJO, is the Rossby wave, once again with two vortices on either side of the equator.
  • However, not all tropical cyclones are born from the MJO. Sometimes it is a mere Rossby wave with two vortices on either side.


Insta Curious:

  • Did you know that The MJO is an intraseasonal oscillation? Its time scale is on the order of 30 to 60 days; it is also known as the 30-to-60 day oscillation or wave.
  • The MJO acts a little like El Niño or La Niña by concentrating tropical convection or thunderstorm activity but is smaller in scale and doesn’t remain stationary but propagates eastward.



[Q.2) Consider the following statements:

  1. Karim and Asani are “twin” cyclones formed in the year 2022.
  2. Rossby waves can be seen only in northern hemisphere.

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

      1. 1 only.
      2. 2 only.
      3. Both.
      4. None. ]

Sources: the Hindu.