Meteorological environments associated with medicane development



Medicanes are ‘Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones’, warm-core cyclones that occasionally put in danger the islands and coastal regions. In spite of large geographical differences between the Mediterranean Sea and the tropical oceans, their genesis mechanisms, based on the thermodynamical disequilibrium between the sea and the atmosphere, are similar.

The special characteristics of the medicanes make their detection difficult: only with high resolution meteorological analysis data and dense maritime observations that task would be possible. An alternative method, using satellite data and restricted criteria about the disturbance symmetry, size and lifespan, has been successfully used to detect 12 medicanes from 1982 to 2003.

To enhance the medicane prediction capability or even to assess the risk potential in future climates, it is necessary to characterize the special conditions of the synoptic-scale meteorological environments that are needed for their development and maintenance. By comparing these environments against the bulk of Mediterranean cyclonic situations, high values of mid-tropospheric relative humidity, significant diabatic contribution to the surface level equivalent potential temperature, and low values of tropospheric wind shear, are revealed as important parameters involved in medicane genesis, as in tropical cyclones. An empirical genesis index previously derived for the tropical cyclones is also tested in the study, and its behaviour is revealed as a possible discriminative parameter of the precursor environments.

In the context of the growing concern about how climate change will affect the number and intensity of hurricanes, a preliminary analysis for medicanes has been done here. By projecting the previous empirical index into three different global climate model (GCM)-simulated climates, spatial distributions of the monthly index values have been evaluated. The monthly mean values and the frequency of extreme values of this index tend to decrease, showing that the number of days with a medicane risk tends to reduce at the end of the 21st century. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society