Storm Daniel’s landfall in Libya has resulted in a devastating toll, claiming over 11,000 lives. As the aftermath unfolds, experts sound the alarm, cautioning that such severe climatic events will become increasingly frequent and intense due to the progression of climate change.
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Deadly Surge of ‘Medicanes’
Medicanes, a fusion of ‘Mediterranean’ and ‘hurricane’, are cyclonic storms that share characteristics with hurricanes and typhoons. They emerge over parts of the Mediterranean Sea, especially near the North African coast. While these storms can develop over cooler waters, their potential for destruction is significant. The Mediterranean experienced an unparalleled heatwave this summer, which scientists believe elevated sea surface temperatures. This could have fostered the formation of a medicane like Storm Daniel. Dr Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist at Leipzig University, remarked,
“The warmer water does not only fuel those storms in terms of rainfall intensity, it also makes them more ferocious. The fact that Daniel could form into a medicane is likely a result of warmer sea surface temperatures and hence human-made climate change”
Catastrophic Libyan Floods
Derna, a city with a rich history and a population of 90,000, bore the brunt of the storm’s fury. The aftermath of the torrential rains, which caused two dams to collapse, has been described as a “tsunami” by local officials. The Libyan Red Crescent has reported a staggering death toll of over 11,300, with another 10,100 still missing. The chaotic political situation in Libya, coupled with the sheer scale of destruction, has made it challenging to compile an accurate death toll. However, as rescue efforts continue, the numbers are expected to rise.
The Climate Crisis: Frequency of Storms
The increasing frequency and intensity of medicanes are a direct consequence of the climate crisis. As the oceans absorb the majority of the excess heat produced by human activities, extreme storms like medicanes are expected to become more intense and frequent. The Mediterranean experienced its highest temperature on record in July, further evidence of the escalating climate crisis.
A Global Call to Action
The World Meteorological Organization has emphasised that many deaths could have been avoided with advanced warning systems. As the climate crisis deepens, nations around the world must prioritise building resilience against such extreme weather events.
Dr Kevin Collins, a senior lecturer on environment and systems at the Open University highlighted,
“It is important to recognise that the storm itself is not just the single cause of the loss of life. It is also partly a function of Libya’s limited ability to forecast weather impacts; limited warning and evacuation systems; and planning and design standards for infrastructure and cities. As our climate changes, understanding, planning for and adapting to these more extreme types of events needs to be done by individuals, businesses, and communities in all countries.”
This collective call to action serves as a reminder that proactive measures are essential to mitigate the impacts of such events in the future.