Medicane, that’s what Mediterranean hurricanes are all about

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When we think of the “extreme” sea and the dangers of sailing in these conditions many think of the Ocean, because of its vastness, grandeur.

But what is the most unpredictable sea? According to many sailors, it is precisely the Mediterranean that is and therefore potentially very dangerous, even when sailing as a family in the summer.

To navigate safely one of the most accurate sites is Meteomed, a platform with forecasts designed for the Mediterranean that also offers the opportunity to consult you, even on a daily basis, with a team of professional meteorologists. Also because, apart from the routine necessities of sailing (storm warnings, high winds, rough seas), there are some very dangerous meteomarine phenomena: the dreaded Medicane.

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
Even the Mare Nostrum has its hurricanes: the term medicane (a crasis of 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.

SO 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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