The Arabian Peninsula is beautiful in June—precious little water, vast expanses of nothing, brutal sunshine, and temperatures hot enough to kill you in a few hours. It’s Disney without the high prices! However, nature will break the monotony this week as a tropical cyclone aims for Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Thankfully, Tropical Cyclone Ashobaa has stayed relatively weak as it inches closer to land. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center estimates that the cyclone has winds of about 50 knots—58 MPH—which would make it a moderate tropical storm if it formed in the Atlantic.
The agency, which is the tropical forecasting branch of the U.S. military, expects that Ashobaa will remain a tropical storm as it spins towards the eastern tip of Oman, south of the country’s capital of Muscat. After landfall, the storm is expected to push into the far southeastern extent of Saudi Arabia as it dissipates in the harsh desert environment. Tropical cyclones can strengthen and weaken beyond what’s forecast with little notice, so there’s always the chance that Ashobaa could explode or fall apart before it reaches shore.
The greatest risk from Ashobaa will be heavy rains, which would lead to flooding in this desert country. Oman and Saudi Arabia usually see very little (if any) rainfall during the summer months outside of tropical cyclones, so even a little bit of rainfall from this storm could cause flash flooding, especially in locations near the Al Hajar Mountains in the northern part of Oman.
However, the threat for heavy rain is a huge “maybe” at this point.
The two big models—the European (ECMWF) and the American (GFS)—wildly differ on what the storm will do. The Euro shows the storm stalling and dissipating just off the coast, leaving the land high and dry like it should be during the summer, while the GFS brings Ashobaa inland through Oman while dropping more than a year’s worth of rainfall in just a few days. The intensity and pervasiveness of dry air seems to be the deciding factor in whether or not Ashobaa goes on to produce flooding rains or if it’ll peter out just before making landfall.
Tropical cyclones form frequently in the Indian Ocean, but there aren’t too many that have made a direct landfall on the Arabian Peninsula in recent years. Only six cyclones have come ashore on the Arabian Peninsula (either Yemen or Oman) since 2000; all but one (2010’s Cyclone Phet) was a tropical storm at landfall.
[Images: CIMSS, JTWC, WeatherBELL]