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Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue

Sicily's residents are bracing for the arrival of a cyclone later on Thursday, the second this week after a deadly storm hammered the Italian island, killing three people.

Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue
Cars and market stalls submerged in Catania, Sicily, after heavy rain hit the city and province on october 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

A rare tropical-style cyclone known as a “medicane” is set to reach Sicily’s eastern coast and the tip of mainland Calabria between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to Italian public research institute ISPRA.

“Heavy rainfall and strong sea storms are expected on the coast, with waves of significant height over 4.5 metres (15 feet),” ISPRA said.

The Italian Department for Civil Protection placed eastern Sicily under a new amber alert for Thursday and the highest-level red lert for Friday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, after almost a week of extreme weather in the area.

A total of three people have been reported killed in flooding on the island this week amid storms that left city streets and squares submerged.

On Tuesday, parts of eastern Sicily were ravaged by a cyclone following days of heavy rains that had sparked flooding and mudslides, killing three people.

Television images from Tuesday showed flooding in the emergency room of Catania’s Garibaldi-Nesima hospital, while rain was seen pouring from the roof inside offices at the city courtroom.

Thursday’s storm was set to hit the same area around Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, even as residents were still mucking out their streets and homes.

Schools were closed in Syracuse and Catania, where the local government ordered public offices and courts closed through Friday.

The mayor of Catania on Tuesday shut down all businesses and urged residents to stay home.

Antonio Navarra, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper this week that Sicily was at the centre of extreme weather events, including heatwaves and cyclones.

“We’re trying to understand if, with climate change, these phenomena will become even more intense, if they will change their character as their frequency intensifies,” he said.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

Cars submerged in Catania, Sicily, after storms hit the city and province on October 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

Other forecasters have said the “medicane” is the latest evidence that the climate crisis is irreversibly tropicalising the Mediterranean, after the island’s south-eastern city of Syracuse this August recorded a temperature of 48.8C, the hottest ever seen in Europe.

“Sicily is tropicalising and the upcoming medicane is perhaps the first of this entity, but it certainly won’t be the last,” Christian Mulder, a professor of ecology and climate emergency at the University of Catania, told The Guardian on Wednesday.

“We are used to thinking that this type of hurricane and cyclone begins in the oceans and not in a closed basin like the Mediterranean. But this is not the case,” he said.

“This medicane is forming due to the torrid climate of north Africa and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea has a temperature of 3C higher than the average, while the Ionian Sea has a temperature of almost 2C higher than the average. The result is a pressure cooker.”

The storm is expected to leave the area between Saturday and Sunday.

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WEATHER

Italy braces for first heatwave of the year with highs of over 30C

Temperatures are set to rise dramatically across Italy this weekend as the country prepares for its first real heatwave of the year, meteorologists said on Friday.

Italy braces for first heatwave of the year with highs of over 30C

People across Italy are preparing to head to the beach this weekend with unseasonably hot weather predicted to last for several days.

The heatwave is caused by an anticyclone named  ‘Hannibal’ sweeping in from Tunisia and Algeria, bringing hot air currents across the Mediterranean and as far north as Denmark and Poland, reports news agency Ansa.

Temperatures are forecast to rise above 32-33°C in parts of the Italian north including Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, and Emilia Romagna, before the heatwave expands towards the centre and south of the country over the course of the weekend.

The weather is already 8°C above the seasonal average for this time of year, according to Antonio Sanò, founder of the Italian weather site IlMeteo.it, and temperatures could rise by as much as 10°C.

READ ALSO: From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

In a typical year these kinds of highs wouldn’t be seen until July, Sanò said.

The incoming heatwave will be particularly humid as the anticyclone is carrying moisture from the Mediterranean sea, according to IlMeteo.

However, the relative cool of the Mediterranean basin at this time of year will contain the heat and keep the temperatures from rising into the high 30s, as would happen if the same type of weather event occurred in August.

READ ALSO: Nine in 10 Italians ‘want more action on climate crisis’, new study finds

The heatwave will stretch over the weekend and continue into next week, peaking on Tuesday, according to weather reports.

Patchy thunderstorms typical of midsummer weather are anticipated in the Alps and the Po Valley, while the centre-south is set to experience hot and sunny conditions bar some isolated storms in the mountains of Abruzzo on Sunday.

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