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Europe braces for unique 'Medicane' storm, so what is that?

Thursday, September 17th 2020, 8:15 pm - The 2020 hurricane season has been breaking records in the Atlantic basin for many months now, but there is a new sheriff in town in Europe. Meet the ‘Medicane’. We explore what type of storm this is and how it will impact parts of Europe this weekend.

Greece is experiencing a rare type of tropical storm known as a Medicane, which first hit its western Ionian islands before reaching the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

The term ‘Mediterranean cyclone’ -- or shortened to 'Medicane' -- is very similar to a hurricane, though it has some important differences.

Tropical-like systems were first identified in the Mediterranean basin in the 1980s, when widespread satellite coverage picked up on tropical-looking low pressures forming a cyclonic eye in the center of the storm.

medicane sat

These days, Greek meteorologists, much like back here in North America, assign a name to each storm of this type. This weekend, we’re keeping a close eye on one that fits this definition: Janus, or in Greek, Ianos.


Medicane Janus arrived Thursday evening local time and will bring heavy rain to much of western Greece over the next few days. The storm could bring as much as 200 mm in total, likely causing flash flooding and mudslides.

In addition to the rain, widespread winds of 80-90 km/hr -- with locally higher gusts -- are expected along coastal Greece by Saturday. This could cause many power outages across the region, Greek authorities warned via Reuters.

Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias on Thursday advised residents of areas hit by floods in the past or close to rivers and torrents to find alternative accommodation. The rest should limit any unnecessary travel.

"Ianos' impact, we must be clear, will be similar to that of a heavy storm but greater in intensity, extent, and duration," he told reporters on Wednesday. Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the intensity and the course of the cyclone could not be accurately predicted.

These cyclones first appeared in Greece in 1995, but such extreme weather events have become more frequent in recent years, Hardalias said.

A similar storm hit Greece in 2018. In 2017, flash floods killed 25 people and left hundreds homeless.

The storm is set to dissipate by the end of the weekend.


The short answer is, it is a hybrid storm. A Medicane will form from the same type of tropical ingredients as a hurricane, such as warm ocean temperatures and low wind shear. However, Medicane’s often start off as systems that are 'cold cored' or a systems with fronts.

These systems can then drift over the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea and take on tropical characteristics. The impacts are the same as their big brother 'the hurricane', bringing the risk of heavy rain and flooding, and if strong enough, damaging winds.

Contains files from Reuters

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