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Mediterranean storm prediction stirs new concerns.

Predictions that a warming Mediterranean Sea could spawn hurricanes in the region has raised issues for both scientists and insurers.

According to a report published by a group of European academic experts, the heavily populated area bordering on the Mediterranean could face weather patterns suggestive of those of the southeastern United States.

The report, Tropical Cyclones Over the Mediterranean Sea, was based on simulations of climate change, and was written for publication in the American Geophysical Union Journal. The project was headed by Miguel Angel Gaertner, a member of the environmental sciences faculty at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo, Spain.

"The use of a multi-model ensemble of relatively high-resolution regional climate models has allowed us to detect, for the first time, a risk of tropical cyclone development over the Mediterranean Sea under future climate-change conditions," the scientific team wrote in an abstract to the report.


To Mark Saunders, a professor of climate prediction at University College London, the report "certainly is plausible. It is the first study to show that there is a risk of tropical cycles forming in the Mediterranean."

As waters in the Mediterranean warm up, they will reach the "critical threshold" for tropical cyclones to form, Saunders said. The shape and intensity of such storms, he said, will depend on atmospheric conditions.

Saunders cited the occurrence of some severe Mediterranean storms, notably around the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. But storms in the Mediterranean tend to be subtropical and lack the severity of tropical storms, he said. He cited the subtropical storm that hit southern Italy in 1996.

Saunders does not regard a Mediterranean hurricane as likely within the next five to 10 years, and he believes insurers should remain calm. "I think it's something they should be monitoring," he said.
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Title Annotation:Highlights From BestWeek: Briefing
Author:O'Connor, Robert
Publication:Best's Review
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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