'Medicane,' a rare, hurricane-like storm in the Mediterranean, makes landfall

(CNN)A rare Mediterranean hurricane – otherwise known as a “medicane” – has made landfall over Western Greece.

The storm, named Ianos, hit Lefkada Island on Friday morning, according to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service, and is expected to impact mainland Greece and the Peloponnese peninsula later.

Ianos was traveling with sustained winds of 100 kph (62 mph) just before landfall, making it the equivalent of a strong tropical storm in the Atlantic.

Winds of 100kph are known as a strong breeze in Wellington

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We call it a “Mullet Breeze” more of a nuisance than anything else. Trouble… sometimes with power outages, but generally not a problem at those wind speeds.

The Wikipedia article on Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones are not rare but for them to reach hurricane strength wind speeds is rare.

From the WP:

Medicanes aren’t considered full-fledged tropical systems, since the waters of the Mediterranean aren’t extensive or warm enough to sustain a true hurricane. And despite the implication embedded in the name, very few medicanes achieve sustained winds as strong as a Category 1 hurricane. However, it’s quite possible for an existing center of low pressure in the Mediterranean to briefly take on tropical characteristics, including a symmetric structure and a small core of warm air.

From Wikipedia:

The occurrence of Medicanes has been described as not particularly rare.[2] Tropical-like systems were first identified in the Mediterranean basin in the 1980s, when widespread satellite coverage showing tropical-looking low pressures which formed a cyclonic eye in the center were identified.[3] Due to the dry nature of the Mediterranean region, the formation of tropical, subtropical cyclones and tropical-like cyclones are infrequent and also hard to detect, in particular with the reanalysis of past data. Depending on the search algorithms used, different long term surveys of satellite era and pre-satellite era data came up with 67 tropical-like cyclones of tropical storm intensity or higher between 1947 and 2014,[4] and around 100 recorded tropical-like storms between 1947 and 2011

This is from 17 Sep.

These ‘Medicanes’ start exclusively at large in the Ionian Sea, between Sicily and the Peloponnese Peninsula of Greece. Once they reach the Greek coast, in the general eastwards drift of all weather phenomena in the Mediterranean, they normally turn south, pass south of Crete… and disappear.

The real tropical hurricanes need ‘hot’ water down to about 200 meters; this condition never exists in the Mediterranean. There is a permanent inflow of ‘cold’ Atlantic surface water through the Gibraltar Strait; as the Atlantic is much less salty than the Mediterranean, this colder but lighter water stays at the surface, before becoming hotter in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Interesting. The 200 meter thing has seemed counterintuitive to me but it’s not just mixing due to waves. Currents are set up, turbulence is involved.

Good article here:


Three-dimensional cartoon of the temperature distribution in the upper ocean and the impact of a hurricane passing over the ocean when the oceanic mixed layer is thin like much of the Gulf of Mexico (left) and thick like the Caribbean Sea (right). In both cases, the hurricane propagates down and left over the warm sea surface (red), creating a cold wake behind the storm as colder water (blue) is brought towards the sea surface by the hurricane’s wind stress. If the oceanic mixed layer is initially thin (left), the cold wake is colder so the hurricane remains weaker than if the oceanic mixed layer is initially thick (right), all else being equal. Image credit: National Geographic Magazine.

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Windy Welly! You can’t beat Wellington on a Good Day!