Atlantic Hurricane Season

Black Sea Medicane or not?

In what has been an active season across the globe for Tropical Cyclones, some model guidance is suggesting that the Black Sea may be getting into the action as well. Fleetweather has been monitoring an area of low pressure in the eastern Black Sea which may begin to develop some tropical characteristics over the coming days. 

Should this system begin to develop some tropical characteristics, it would be classified as a Medicane in the Mediterranean Sea. A Medicane is the name given to a depression that looks and exhibits similar characteristics to a tropical cyclone when observed over the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, just like tropical cyclones, a Medicane is a low pressure system driven by huge thunderstorms which form around the center of the depression. These thunderstorms gather their energy from warm ocean water. Climatologically between 1-2 of these systems form over the Mediterranean Sea annually, but are much rarer over the Black Sea.

The last Medicane (Cyclone Ianos) developed on the 14th of September 2020 over the Gulf of Sidra. Favorable atmospheric factors and very warm sea surface temperatures allowed the system to strengthen considerably as it moved northward and made land over Greece the morning of September 18th with winds equivalent to a category 2 hurricane. Cyclone Ionas was one of the strongest recorded Medicanes. 

Visible Satellite imagery (From Aug 13 0730Z) of the Black sea courtesy of the Indian Meteorology Department

While the current system is still largely disorganized, latest satellite imagery shows that there is some convection beginning to form over its low level center and become more organised. With low wind shear present over the eastern Black Sea, we could see that convection continue to build resulting in a more tropical looking system on satellite. 

Another important factor in the development of a tropical cyclone is warm sea surface temperatures. A tropical cyclone will derive its energy from the ocean and typically water temperatures over 27 degrees celsius will allow for tropical cyclone development. 

Black Sea sea surface temperatures (In degrees C) courtesy of HYCOM

As seen in the latest Black Sea sea surface temperature graphic, the eastern Black Sea is quite warm right now. With a highest measured temperature of 29.47C, the system will have plenty of energy to draw from, further aiding in its development. 

Not all global models are in agreement over this, but some of the global and regional forecast models do develop this low into a strong system, with up to gale force winds expected along its western side by the 13th August and very heavy rain.  The winds could also help whip up any ongoing local wild fires in Turkey.

GFS 10 M mean wind speed forecasts (in kph) for 14/1800Z and 15/1800Z August 2021. Courtesy of WWW.wxcharts.com

Most models do intensify the system over the next 24 hours or so. Thereafter some models such as ICON (German) move the system northwest over Russia while other global models, including the GFS, ECMWFand NAVGEM, move the system to the west or south west keeping it over the warmer water. Should this scenario occur, the low will then have much more time for it to develop tropical characteristics.  This system is certainly testing the models for now.

Regardless of whether or not this low develops tropical characteristics, it still poses a threat to vessels and port cities in its vicinity. With gale force winds and heavy rains expected to impact the eastern Black Sea in the coming days this system will need to be monitored closely, especially as there is limited sea room for ships to manoeuvre in.

Stay connected and stay safe.

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