As Cyclone Mocha approached Myanmar on May 14, 2023, winds roared as fast as 175 miles (280 kilometers) per hour, enough to make it a category 5 storm. Although the storm weakened slightly during the final hours of its approach, Mocha still brought dangerous winds, downpours, and storm surge when it made landfall just north of Sittwe, Myanmar.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image of the cyclone at 07:15 Universal Time (1:45 p.m. local time) on May 14, 2023, as the storm neared landfall.
The storm underwent a period of rapid intensification on May 14 as it encountered warm water in the Bay of Bengal and little vertical wind shear—factors that can strengthen tropical cyclones. At their peak, Mocha’s powerful winds tied with Cyclone Fani for being the strongest on record in the North Indian Ocean basin, according to Jeff Masters with Yale Climate Connections. To estimate storm intensity, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center uses the Dvorak technique, which is based on an analysis of cloud patterns in visible and infrared imagery from geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites.
Early reports suggest the storm caused widespread damage in Sittwe, the state capital of Rakhine, with local news sources reporting flooded streets, downed trees and power lines, and roofs torn from homes. The evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people from vulnerable areas in both Bangladesh and Myanmar in advance of the storm may have helped limit casualties, according to some news reports. The worst of the storm surge also missed low-lying refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar that many observers feared were vulnerable.
However, aid groups also report that telecommunication interruptions have made it difficult to assess the full impact of the storm. “Early reports suggest the damage is extensive and needs among already vulnerable communities, particularly displaced people, will be high,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted in an update on May 14.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Wanmei Liang, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview. Story by Adam Voiland.