Mediterranean Hurricanes - Medicanes ?

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Mediterranean tropical cyclones are an extremely rare weather phenomenon. These systems are a subject of some debate within meteorological circles whether they closely fit the definition of tropical cyclones, subtropical cyclones, or polar lows. Their origins are typically non-tropical, and develop over open waters under strong, initially cold-core cyclones, similar to subtropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin. Sea surface temperatures in late-August and early-September are quite high over the basin (+24/+28°C), though research indicates water temperatures of 20 °C/68 °F are normally required for development. Cold air aloft appears to be the main trigger for instability in the development of these systems. If a "hurricane season" were ever to be demarcated in the Mediterranean, it would extend from August through January, based upon occurrences so far.

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Sardinia Devastated by Medicane Cleopatra

In yet another example of a Mediterranean Tropical Cyclone, on Monday 18th November 2013 the Island of Sardinia was devastated by hurricane force winds and torrential rain, floods and landslides. In 90 minutes a years worth of rain fell on the Island. See the article below for more information.

Italy Declares state of emergency in Sardinia after deadly cyclone

Reuters News Agency


NOAA Officially Designates Mediterranean Tropical Storm (01M) for the first time

Cyprus Mail  - 11th November 2011
(A sign of things to come ??)

ANYBODY who flew to the Cote d'Azur or Provence for some autumn sunshine this week might have been sorely disappointed. An intense low pressure system developed in the western Mediterranean and  became  slow moving west of Corsica, dumping some intense rainfall and generating fierce winds. This late in autumn the weather does  tend to turn in the Mediterranean, and only a couple of weeks ago (October 2011) Greece and Turkey were suffering heavy rain and gales.

This particular depression, though, was an odd one. As it developed, meteorologists watched satellite
animations which showed it assuming the sort of shape associated with tropical cyclones, even suggestive of a central "eye". Before we get too carried away, the sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean  is not high enough to create or sustain a hurricane. Near Corsica, the western Mediterranean has been at about 20C this week, and hurricanes require water at close to 27C beneath them.

However, the storm exhibited sufficient tropical characteristics for NOAA in the US to grant it tropical storm   status through its  National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (Nesdis). An advisory on Monday called it  01M (the M standing for Mediterranean), the first such ever issued for the Mediterranean.  Winds were above storm force with heavy thunderstorms breaking out, similar in intensity to those in the
tropics, and there was some coastal flooding. 

The department of Var, north of Toulon, recorded more than 400mm of rain in four days, and a gust  of 153kph hit Porquerolles Island just offshore south of the city on Tuesday. Just east-south-east   of Toulon, 129mm of  rain fell on Ile du Levant on Tuesday alone, and there was a gust of 148kph.  The relatively high sea temperature was overlaid by cold air aloft, with temperatures of minus 20C at 5,000m-6,000m. That
difference of 40 degrees meant a very unstable airmass, ideal for the formation  of such storms and for very deep convection to be sustained.

Similar Mediterranean storms are uncommon but not by any means unknown, and are given the rather playful portmanteau name "Medicane" ? that is "Medi-terranean Hurri-cane". Two of the more recent  occurrences were in 1995 and 1996. In January 1995 there was a similar formation south-east of Sicily, and in October 1996 one over the Tyrrhenian Sea, both of which had very distinct central "eyes". The 1995  storm could
arguably be called a proper  hurricane ? although strictly not because of the insufficient warmth of the sea ? because it had sustained winds, not gusts, of around 145kph. These were measured by a German research
vessel which ? fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint ? got caught up in it. Highly
appropriately the ship was called the "Meteor".