Tropical cyclones are hard to detect. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter

The water temperature in the Mediterranean is currently close to 30º, between 4º and 6º higher than usual for this time of year ans this has sparked concerns that that Mallorca could be hit by a ‘medicane’ or tropical cyclone.

Retired meteorologist and collaborator with the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) Agustín Jansà explains that this does not necessarily have to happen, as the fact that the water is very warm in contrast to the cold air is one of the requisites, but not the only one, for this phenomenon to develop. In this sense, he argues that ‘medicane’ also sometimes occur in winter. So, it could occur in the coming weeks.

Mediterranean tropical-like cyclones, often referred to as medicanes (a portmanteau of Mediterranean hurricanes) but sometimes also as Mediterranean cyclones or as Mediterranean hurricanes, are meteorological phenomena occasionally observed over the Mediterranean Sea.

On a few rare occasions, some storms have been observed reaching the strength of a Category 1 hurricane, on the Saffir–Simpson scale, and one storm has been recorded reaching Category 2 intensity.

The main societal hazard posed by medicanes is not usually from destructive winds, but through life-threatening torrential rains and flash floods.
The occurrence of medicanes has been described as not particularly rare.

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Tropical-like systems were first identified in the Mediterranean basin in the 1980s, when widespread satellite coverage showing tropical-looking low pressures which formed a cyclonic eye in the center were identified.

Due to the dry nature of the Mediterranean region, the formation of tropical, subtropical cyclones and tropical-like cyclones are infrequent and also hard to detect, in particular with the reanalysis of past data.

Depending on the search algorithms used, different long-term surveys of satellite era and pre-satellite era data came up with 67 tropical-like cyclones of tropical storm intensity or higher between 1947 and 2014, and around 100 recorded tropical-like storms between 1947 and 2011.

More consensus exists about the long term temporal and spatial distribution of tropical-like cyclones: they form predominantly over the western and central Mediterranean Sea while the area east of Crete is almost devoid of tropical-like cyclones.

The development of tropical-like cyclones can occur year-round, with activity historically peaking between the months of September and January, while the counts for the summer months of June and July are the lowest.