Adalgisa Martinelli

Libya extreme and catastrophic floods triggered by Storm Daniel is one of the many examples of extreme climate-disaster characterizing 2023. The massive rainfall has caused deaths and destruction in the country urging national and international action immediately.

The climatologist David Faranda warns that the growing warming of the Mediterranean Sea will affect all coastal counties. Bob Henson and Jeff Masters from Yale University link climate change to Mediterranean cyclones, emphasizing the risks posed by intensified rainfall and extreme weather events. In Africa, climate adaptation measures must be implemented to become more resilient. 

Since the beginning of 2023, innumerous and catastrophic environmental damages have inflamed the political debate. After the devastating earthquakes in Morocco, Libya is now facing an alarming  humanitarian crisis due to the following devastating floods triggered by storm Daniel, which struck the country’s eastern region.

Storm Daniel, described as an extreme weather event due to the massive amount of rainfall, has already caused 27 deaths in Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria before reaching Libya. It significantly impacted coastal towns like Jabal al-Akhdar and Benghazi, where a curfew was imposed and schools closed.

This flood is already counting many deaths and missing people in multiple localities. At the current stage, the situation in Eastern Libya is catastrophic, therefore urging for national and international actions, since the water overflow destroyed and it is still perpetuating the destruction of entire areas including buildings, houses, infrastructure, etc.  

The UN mission in Libya and world leaders, including the French President and US State Department spokesman, expressed solidarity while humanitarian organizations and NGOs are urging for immediate actions.

According to the climatologist David Faranda, the ‘Daniel storm’ will be the nightmare of the countries along the Mediterranean coast: “Due to the ongoing CO2 emissions warming the atmosphere, the Mediterranean Sea will have more energy, more heat, and more moisture to create more intense cyclones.

Therefore, the areas that are most exposed are also the ones that are most vulnerable from an infrastructure perspective. As we have seen, North African countries, but even some southern European countries, do not have the infrastructure designed to withstand these quantities of rainfall.”

From Yale University, Bob Henson and Jeff Masters delve into the complex relationship between climate change and the occurrence of Mediterranean cyclones, referred to as medicanes[1] in the article. With the recent Libya’s flood disaster caused by storm Daniel, the authors underscore how meteorological factors represent an intensifying impact of climate change on extreme weather events. Moreover, they declare that human-induced climate change is, in fact, amplifying the likelihood of tropical cyclones and similar storms producing extreme rainfall.

This is due to the warming of the atmosphere, which allows these storms to draw more moisture from oceans into the atmosphere. As above-mentioned by  the climatologist David Faranda,  all the authors are concerned about the alarming warming of the Mediterranean sea.

Over the past four decades, the Mediterranean Sea has experienced an average temperature increase of approximately 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F). “This summer the daily average sea surface temperatures of the Mediterranean hit new records for July (topping 28 degrees Celsius or 82°F for the first time in any month) as well as for August”. These rising sea temperatures provide the energy necessary for the formation of more frequent and more intense medicanes.

To further support their analysis, Bob Henson and Jeff Masters link their conclusions with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report, which draws parallels between the future of medicanes and tropical cyclones. The IPCC predicts a decrease in the frequency of medicanes under warming conditions; however, it also anticipates that the strongest ones will become even more potent.

This is a worrisome trend as stronger storms typically result in more significant damage and increased rainfall. By following the IPCC’s predictions, the authors mention Dr. Liz Stephens, associate professor in climate risks and resilience at the University of Reading, which highlights the linkages between climate change and intensified rainfall associated with medicanes. This indicates a heightened risk of flooding, as seen in the Libyan disaster.

In the second part, the article discusses the potential influence of climate change on mid-latitude atmospheric blocking patterns in summer. Such changes in atmospheric patterns can contribute to extreme weather events (like Storm Daniel) and unusual heat waves especially in the area of central Europe.

Researchers suggest that this correlation can be due to the disproportionate warming in the Arctic compared to mid-latitude regions. Furthermore, the article goes beyond underscoring that climate change is mostly anthropogenic. 

 Indeed, the authors highlight how climate change ca, be worsened by various aspects of human society, including ecosystems, housing patterns, and infrastructure. For example, in Libya, inadequate dam maintenance may have heightened the risk of flooding, highlighting how human actions and development choices can worsen the impacts of climate change. 

In the third section, the authors address the broader context of climate change-induced extreme weather events in the African continent. Despite improved forecasting and disaster preparedness and the differences across each nation, Africa has experienced an alarming increase in deadly weather-related disasters in recent years. Many factors such as higher vulnerability, population growth, and more frequent extreme weather events contribute to this trend.

A mention of “attribution science” in the article points to a field that investigates whether human-caused climate change played a role in specific disasters. Several African extreme weather events have been linked to climate change through attribution studies, including droughts, floods, and heatwaves. Lastly, the article acknowledges the varying impact of climate change on different events; while some, like East Africa’s drought, have become significantly more severe due to climate change, others may lack sufficient data to establish a clear connection therefore enduring the difficulty of understanding the causality link. 

In conclusion, extreme events and their impact in the case of Libya underscore the urgent call for immediate actions against climate change and the impacts on countries and populations. With the growing risks and the several disasters, adaptation measures are the short term solution that countries should implement to not further aggravate the alarming situation. 


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