Mediterranean Hurricane Forms South Of Italy

A rare cyclone, similar to a tropical storm, formed in the southern Mediterranean this morning and caused a path of destruction as it moved eastwards through the Sicilian Channel. The storm, termed a Mediterranean Hurricane (or Medicane), first battered the small island of Lampedusa with winds gusting to 73 knots (84 mph/135 km/h) before moving on eastwards for a direct hit on the larger Maltese island group. 

Satellite image showing the medicane approaching Malta this afternoon. Image from www.sat24.com
Satellite image showing the medicane approaching Malta this afternoon. Image from http://www.sat24.com
ASCAT satellite-derived surface winds at 08:37 GMT on 7th November 2014, showing 60-knot winds on the southwestern flank of the medicane.
ASCAT satellite-derived surface winds at 08:37 GMT on 7th November 2014, showing 60-knot winds on the southwestern flank of the medicane.

The eye of the storm passed directly over the island of Malta, as can be seen from the graph below. There was a sharp fall and rise in pressure, with similarly sharp increases and decreases in windspeeds. This is a classic example of an eye-passage, like we saw with Hurricane Gonzalo in Bermuda last month.

Graph of Sea-level pressure (hPa), sustained windspeed and gusts (knots) at Malta Luqa Airport (LMML) during the passage of the eye of the medicane.
Graph of Sea-level pressure (hPa), sustained windspeed and gusts (knots) at Malta Luqa Airport (LMML) during the passage of the eye of the medicane.

Such storms are rare, occuring only one occuring every 2-3 years, on average. Today’s storm formed due to instability from a pool of cool air at upper levels lying above a warm sea. The sea released energy to fuel the storm, just like it does in a tropical system. Although the maximum sustained windspeeds fell just short of the 64 knots required for hurricane status, the storm will still be classified and studied as another Medicane.

Here are the METARs from Lampedusa Airport (LICD), showing winds picking up from a westerly direction and pressure falling and rising rapidly as the eye of the storm passed just to the north. The strongest winds (in bold) occured around lunchtime. For a guide to decoding METARs, please see here.

LICD 071450Z 29031G50KT 8000 RA SCT020CB BKN035 18/13 Q0999 RESHRA

LICD 071350Z 29029G45KT 7000 FEW010 BKN035 BKN042 18/12 Q0998

LICD 071250Z 28041G62KT 6000 -RA FEW020 BKN040 16/12 Q0994

LICD 071206Z 26046G73KT 240V300 3800 RA SCT030 16/13 Q0994

LICD 071150Z 25043G64KT 1500 1200W RA FEW020 OVC040 14/14 Q0995

LICD 071119Z 24034G52KT 1400 1300W RA FEW020 OVC040 15/14 Q0997

LICD 071108Z 24033G52KT 1800 -RA FEW020 OVC040 15/14 Q0997

LICD 071050Z 24029G42KT 2200 RA FEW020 BKN040 15/14 Q1000

LICD 071008Z 26023KT 2800 +RA BKN030 14/12 Q1002

LICD 070950Z 28023KT 4600 +RA BKN030 13/11 Q1003

LICD 070916Z 29020KT 5000 RA FEW020 BKN040 14/12 Q1003 RESHRA

LICD 070858Z 28018KT 9000 RA FEW020 BKN040 15/12 Q1002

LICD 070750Z 29018G28KT 260V320 9999 BKN040 16/12 Q1002

LICD 070650Z 31018G31KT 9999 FEW020 BKN040 16/12 Q1002

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