Holidaying abroad in usual times: the lure of sunshine, warmth and a change of scenery. Currently, there is the gamble of quarantine, Covid elsewhere and a holiday with a mask on wondering will your travel insurance be okay? It might be you had to cancel, were cancelled, decided not to go or, after weighing up all of the options, you set off to the eastern Mediterranean. To southern Italy, the Greek Islands or mainland Greece, to Crete. And would you believe it, there is a huge storm? After all of that, it is chucking it down, really windy and there are thunderstorms.
And not just any old storm, but a Medicane. An unofficial term for a cyclone, a low pressure which shows tropical characteristics. The name is a combination of Mediterranean and Hurricane. These haven't historically been considered true tropical storms, yet this one looks very similar and weird weather stuff keeps on happening around the world as our global climate warms.
The potentially damaging winds could reach hurricane force (73mph+). It will bring wild conditions and the risk of flooding to a part of Europe that you wouldn’t usually associate with the kind of autumnal bad weather you could have stayed in the UK for. Torrential rain will lead to flash flooding and there is the risk of tornadoes along with the thunderstorms. Very high waves are expected for the Ionian and western coasts.
Calabria, SW Italy and Sicily have a thunderstorm and wind warnings. Corfu, Zante/ Zakynthos and Kefalonia have red warnings for Thursday 17th Sept with ferries suspended. Western areas of Greece are now in a state of "special civil protection mobilisation” due to the seriousness of the situation. By Friday, more of mainland Greece has heavy rain, strong wind and thunderstorm warnings, schools are closing in preparation and there are rain and thunderstorm warnings over Crete too.
The low pressure has been moving eastwards towards western Greece still deepening until early Friday and then will take a turn southwards. Forecasts show the centre of the Medicane moving right over Kefalonia. As it then moves southwards it draws a brisk northerly flow down over mainland Greece and Athens. There is some uncertainty about its survival after that. It could reach northern Africa by the end of the weekend but should be a much weaker feature by then. Currently, it is quite a beautiful spiral on the satellite imagery with banding and towers over the mainland. That’s the area with the risk of tornadoes.
"avoid staying underground, semi-basement and ground floor, especially when it is below sea level. Avoid any unnecessary movement during severe weather conditions." General Secretariat for Civil Protection
There tends to be one every year or so. In November 2017 a severe slow-moving Medicane brought heavy rain and flooding, gales and even snow to the central Mediterranean, with Malta, Italy and Greece affected. The naming can be quite random, with often at least two names in use. The Greek Meteorological office has named this one Ianos and as it is mainly affecting Greece, even Athens in the SE and the red warnings are here, Ianos could be considered the main name.
A Medicane develops a warm core, taking energy from the relatively warm waters of the Mediterranean, with cooler air up above at height, the convection continues. This cyclone is certainly something. The severe weather is short-lived yet there could be significant disruption particularly from the rainfall.
As the low pulls southwards the following colder north wind reaching Athens brings to mind the Bora wind. Usually associated with the Adriatic Sea, Croatian sailing or the Ionian Sea, Boreas was the god of the north wind and of winter. He swept down from the mountains chilling the air with his icy breath. So would-be holidaymakers, consider that stormy picture with torrential rain, flooding, high seas, wild winds, thunderstorms and then a chilly wind. Better have a nice cup of tea at home.