Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hurricanes brewing in the Mediterranean?

Discovery News: Climate change models tailored to investigate some strange storms in the Mediterranean suggest that global warming could lead to hurricanes forming in that sea. If so, countries around the Mediterranean could be in for the most violent weather in centuries.

Most hurricanes form in the tropical Atlantic, rarely reaching Europe. But warming oceans could encourage them in the relatively landlocked Mediterranean, say the authors of a new study.

"It should be a matter of concern," said Miguel Gaertner, a researcher at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain. "The consequences could be quite dangerous." Not only would European countries face more powerful storms, but much poorer countries in coastal northern Africa could be hit hard, he told Discovery News.

The idea of hurricanes hitting Europe and northern Africa is not completely farfetched, Gaertner points out, since in 2005 Hurricane Vince made an unprecedented landfall in Spain. What's more, there was a remarkably hurricane-like storm with an eye in the Mediterranean in January 1995, which has been the subject of considerable study by climate and weather scientists.

…Two 30-year runs for each model were done for the years 2071 to 2100. For a reality check, they ran the same tests on the years 1961 to 1990 to make sure the models were able to approximately reproduce history.

The team also used just one of many possible future greenhouse gas scenarios — that in which the release of greenhouse gases continues to increase. The models all included such factors as sea surface temperatures, humidity and wind shear, all of which can make or break a tropical cyclone.

"This is a very new study," said Gaertner. "We used several regional climate models where others have used only one." Their results appear in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

What they discovered is that in most sensitive of their models there was, indeed, an increase in the formation of tropical cyclones in the Mediterranean. While Gaertner is concerned about the potential for hurricanes, he also stressed the preliminary nature of his study…

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