Climate change will affect the generation of cyclones in the Mediterranean with tropical characteristics, the so-called “medicanes,” which will occur less frequently but have greater intensity. This is the conclusion of a doctoral thesis by Maria Tous at the University of the Balearic Islands.

Medicanes, the term comes from a blending of Mediterranean and hurricane, are a rare type of cyclone which has similarities to that in the tropics because of the way that it develops and because of its kinematic and thermodynamic properties. They are smaller than tropical hurricanes and their winds are weaker, but they are strong enough to cause major damage to coastal areas and islands.

The special characteristics of medicanes make their detection difficult and it is normally only possible to to do so with meteorological data analysis at high resolution and via a dense network of maritime observations. For her thesis Maria Tous adopted an alternative method using satellite imagery and restrictive criteria based on the symmetry of the disturbance, its size and its duration.

From this, she detected twelve medicanes that occurred between 1982 and 2003. Parameters she observed, such as elevated values of relative humidity, are related to the genesis of medicanes and to tropical cyclones.