Mediterranean’s devastating Storm Daniel may be harbinger of storms to come

Storm Daniel, which wrought devastation across the Mediterranean in the past week, killed 15 people in central Greece where it dumped more rain than previously recorded before sweeping across to Libya where over 2,500 died in a huge flood.

As the storm moved along the North African coast, Egypt’s authorities sought to calm its worried citizens by telling them Daniel had finally lost its strength. “No need to panic!” Al Ahram newspaper wrote in its online English-language edition.

But global warming means the region may have to brace in future for increasingly powerful storms of this kind, the Mediterranean’s equivalent of a hurricane known as a “medicane”.

“There is consistent evidence that the frequency of medicanes decreases with climate warming, but the strongest medicanes become stronger,” said Suzanne Gray from the meteorology department at Britain’s University of Reading, citing a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For Greece, the storm that formed on 4 September followed a period of blazing heat and wildfires.

In Libya, the town of Derna was deluged by water that flooded down hills into a wadi, a usually dry riverbed, smashing through two catchment dams and sweeping away a quarter of the coastal town.

Climate expert Christos Zerefos, secretary general of the Academy of Athens, said storm data had not been fully compiled yet but he estimated the amount of rain to fall on Libya equalled the 1,000 mm (1 metre) that fell on Thessaly in central Greece in just two days.

He said it was an “unprecedented event” and more rain drenched the area than ever recorded since records began in the mid-19th century.

“We expect such phenomena to happen more often,” he added.

But experts said the impact on countries around the Mediterranean would be uneven, proving most destructive to those with the least means to prepare.