Understanding the extreme weather phenomenon in West Java

Jakarta – On February 21, 2024, an extreme weather event in the form of a wind vortex struck the Rancaekek area in West Java, Indonesia, catching the local community off guard. This event, characterised by strong, rotating winds, caused notable damage in the vicinity, particularly in the Rancaekek Bandung area during the late afternoon. The winds, reaching speeds of 36.8 km/hour, also affected nearby Jatinangor, underscoring the unpredictable nature of such weather phenomena.

The extreme weather was reported as a ‘tornado’, known locally as ‘puting beliung’ or wind vortex or a small tornado, which are intense wind phenomena that form from cumulonimbus (CB) cloud systems. These systems are known for their potential to cause extreme weather. However, not all CB clouds lead to tornadoes, as their formation heavily depends on atmospheric conditions, including instability. Typically short-lived, puting beliung events usually last less than 10 minutes but can cause significant damage within that brief period.

The term ‘tornado’ is more commonly associated with the large, devastating wind vortices seen in the American region, where they can reach speeds of hundreds of kilometres per hour and span large areas. In contrast, the tornadoes experienced in Indonesia, including those in the Bandung area, are usually less intense but can still damage buildings and infrastructure.

Historically, the Bandung region has witnessed several tornado events, with damages to homes and property reported in various villages throughout 2023 and earlier in 2024. These events underscore the region’s vulnerability to such natural phenomena, highlighting the importance of preparedness and early warning systems.

In response to the recent tornado and the potential for further extreme weather, the BMKG (Meteorological, Climatological, and Geophysical Agency) has issued early warnings for the West Java region. These warnings, disseminated through various channels, including the infoBMKG app, are crucial for public safety, advising on the likelihood of heavy rains, lightning, and strong winds due to factors like the Asian monsoon, atmospheric waves, and the formation of elongated wind patterns.

The potential for middle to heavy rainfall, along with the formation of Cumulonimbus clouds, suggests a continued risk of extreme weather events, including tornadoes, in the coming days. Such forecasts are vital for community preparedness, allowing residents and authorities to take necessary precautions to mitigate the impacts of these unpredictable and potentially destructive weather phenomena.

Understanding the nature of extreme weather phenomena such as tornadoes, their formation, and the conditions that favour their occurrence is crucial for communities in prone regions. With climate patterns increasingly volatile, the importance of early warning systems and community awareness cannot be overstated.

As Indonesia continues to face the challenges posed by extreme weather, the efforts of agencies like BMKG in monitoring, forecasting, and informing the public are invaluable in the ongoing effort to safeguard lives and property. (nsh)

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