Articles | Volume 10, issue 10
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 2199–2213, 2010
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 2199–2213, 2010

Research article 29 Oct 2010

Research article | 29 Oct 2010

Mediterranean hurricanes: large-scale environment and convective and precipitating areas from satellite microwave observations

C. Claud1, B. Alhammoud1, B. M. Funatsu1, and J.-P. Chaboureau2 C. Claud et al.
  • 1Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique/IPSL, CNRS, UMR8539, Ecole Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France
  • 2Laboratoire d'Aérologie, University of Toulouse and CNRS, Toulouse, France

Abstract. Subsynoptic scale vortices that have been likened to tropical cyclones or polar lows (medicanes) are occasionally observed over the Mediterranean Sea. Generated over the sea, they are usually associated with strong winds and heavy precipitation and thus can be highly destructive in islands and costal areas. Only an accurate forecasting of such systems could mitigate these effects. However, at the moment, the predictability of these systems remains limited.

Due to the scarcity of conventional observations, use is made of NOAA/MetOp satellite observations, for which advantage can be taken of the time coverage differences between the platforms that carry it, to give a very complete temporal description of the disturbances. A combination of AMSU-B (Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-B)/MHS (Microwave Humidity Sounder) observations permit to investigate precipitation associated with these systems while coincident AMSU-A (Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A) observations give insights into the larger synoptic-scale environment in which they occur.

Three different cases (in terms of intensity, location, trajectory, duration, and periods of the year – May, September and December, respectively) were investigated. Throughout these time periods, AMSU-A observations show that the persisting deep outflow of cold air over the sea together with an upper-level trough upstream constituted a favourable environment for the development of medicanes. AMSU-B/MHS based diagnostics show that convection and precipitation areas are large in the early stage of the low, but significantly reduced afterwards. Convection is maximum just after the upper-level trough, located upstream of cold mid-tropospheric air, reached its maximum intensity and acquired a cyclonic orientation.