Forecasters are predicting that a tropical or subtropical system known as a “Medicane” will form in the Mediterranean Sea later this week, bringing with it heavy rain and strong winds to parts of Greece and especially southern Italy.
The area of low pressure is expected to form in the sea west of Italy before tracking south and strengthening as it moves east, eventually hitting parts of Greece.
These systems, which resemble tropical cyclones in the Mediterranean Sea, have been dubbed medicanes.
Recent research by scientists such as Shimon Wdowinksi at the University of Miami have shown that storms like hurricanes can force movement within the earth’s crust, triggering earthquakes and volcanic activity.
WX Charts/GettyA hurricane in the Mediterranean Sea could set up Mount Etna
He found evidence that linked the devastating Haiti earthquake in January 2010 to strong tropical storm systems that struck the region in 2008.
It is a view supported by Principal Researcher at the University of Maryland Surja Sharma, who told Express.co.uk that the Medicane could trigger activity.
Dr Sharma said: “There are two things. Can a hurricane influence the dynamics of the solid earth. That’s easy to answer, it can. The other thing is how likely is it? hen if we say it is likely, we have to then look at the likelihood. So the first one, can it influence? Yes it can, that’s my belief.”
However it is not quite so clear-cut, with Dr Sharma adding: “Is it likely or not likely in the next few days, it is very hard to say, with a good degree of accuracy.”
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View of lava flows from Trecastagni, Zafferana, Giarre, Fornazzo as Mount Etna continues to erupt; the flows that start from the south east crater pour into the Valle del Bove
Dr Sharma said: “If we go back a little bit and see how we look at these things. There are two aspects.
“The dynamics - there is Etna and Vesuvius and Italy is earthquake prone. A hurricane is likely, so what can happen? That is the dynamics of the situation. We have to know what is happening today to predict what is likely tomorrow.
“From that point of view, the triggering makes good sense. The earthquakes are potentially there in the solid earth due to many things like fault lines and so on.
“If something can trigger it, it is likely to happen.”
A medicane could form off Italy later this week
The Weather Channel/Twitter
The medicane could strike southern Italy and Greece
But Dr Sharma admits there is not yet enough information on these events to be entirely certain as more data is needed to be able to make better predictions.
He said: “If we think of hurricanes and earthquakes over Italy the two will have different timescales which can overlap so there can be a correlation and causation.
“These are difficult to analyse though for two reasons. One is that they are not equilibrium systems.
The Weather Channel/Twitter
Graph of where the medicane could hit southern Europe
“We cannot say they are simple thermodynamic events and theories do not exist for these things, so we have to rely on the data so we use data driven modelling and frameworks and then try to see what we can get out of it.
“From that point of view we need a good level of data for both hurricanes and earthquakes and that is lacking.
“I would conclude and say that these are very interesting possibilities with immense consequences but our knowledge is not good enough to say anything with significant certainty.
“But yes, theoretically it is possible.”