What are medicanes, the hurricanes of the Mediterranean

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medicane
The Apollo medicane that brought some provinces in Sicily to their knees

There has been much talk these days about the “Apollo” medicane that has brought Sicily (and specifically the provinces of Messina, Catania, Syracuse and Ragusa) to its knees. We have all realized it by now, even the Mediterranean has its hurricanes, dangerous not only for those ashore, but especially for those who sail.

What are medicanes

But going into detail, do you know what a medicane is? We told you about it some time ago with the help of Meteomed‘s expert meteorologists.

 

medicane
DESTROYING FURY The Numa medicane (opposite), which hit the coast of Greece in the summer of 2017, killed at least 20 people and caused flooding and landslides that destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Like tropical cyclones

You may not know it, but even the Mare Nostrum has its hurricanes: the term medicane (short for Mediterranean Hurricane) is used to refer to a low-pressure systemand characterized by heavy rainfall and intense winds in which a small, well-delineated “eye” can be recognized (another name given to these pseudo cyclones is TLC, ‘tropical like cyclone’).

“Whirlpools of this kind are not uncommon in our basin, one of the last in terms of time, ‘Vega,’ dates back to Nov. 7, 2014 and affected the arm of the sea between Malta and Lampedusa. The strongest, however, was ‘Zeo,’ which in December 2005 did a lot of damage and even casualties in Sicily,” Meteomed experts recount. “While they do not reach the strength and size of tropical hurricanes, their similarity in shape is incredible.

Medicane, many documented cases

Since satellite observations have been available, many cases have been documented. Also between October 4 and 9, 1996, two Mediterranean cyclones involved southern Italy. The strongest, Cornelia, after crossing the Tyrrhenian Sea reached Sicily and Calabria bringing intense rainfall and causing extensive damage. Particularly affected were the Aeolian Islands where winds reached gusts of 140 km/h; many boats and yachts sank while intense swells involved the coast of Sicily.”

Anatomy of a medicane

“Medicanes seem to evolve just like normal hurricanes and draw energy from the warm sea and are the next step up from the (aforementioned) TLCs,” they explain. “Such eddies are usually formed by the insertion over the South Seas of an overhead vortex. Once the vortex is formed, the process of extracting marine energy fluxes increases due to the strengthening of winds, drawn into the depression center.

Having formed the vortex, the main energy at this point comes precisely from the flow of heat and moisture provided by the sea. They indeed evolve on the sea surface but then tend to fade once they reach land. Because of the large number of people who populate the coast, medicanes have a very dangerous potential so a better understanding of these eddies is necessary to be able to reduce social impacts.”

 


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