Late in October 2021, severe rainfall, powerful winds, and storm surges ravaged the regions of Catania, Messina, and Siracusa, causing significant destruction. As a result, the regional government of Sicily declared a state of emergency for 32 municipalities. The trigger of all this was Medicane Apollo that manifested in the Ionian Sea.

A Medicane (MEDIterranean hurriCANE) is a small-scale tropical cyclone defined by a low-pressure system with a short lifetime. This brings about heavy rains, winds, and storm surges that in turn result in the intensification of the seawaves that can reach a height of 3.5 metres. The seawaves breaking against the shoreline, or interacting with other waves of the same frequency but travelling in opposite directions, can result in the transfer of elastic energy to the Earth’s crust. These disturbances can be measured by seismic stations and have so far been classified as useless ‘noise’. However, by ‘recycling’ these signals, scientists can now extract valuable information about extreme weather and oceanic events.

A recent study analysed seismic signals that were recorded from October 20 to November 5, 2021, by 78 stations installed along the coastal areas of Italy, Greece, and Malta.

To track the movements of the Medicane during peak conditions, two different localisation methods that involved a grid search approach and an array technique, were tested

The study focused on the development, peak, and subsequent loss of intensity of Medicane Apollo. During the storm, the seismic stations located in the Ionian area detected an increase in the energetic content in the 0.1 to 0.2 Hz window. To track the movements of the Medicane during peak conditions, two different localisation methods that involved a grid search approach and an array technique, were tested.

The i-waveNET project (Interreg Italia-Malta, avviso 2/2019, asse prioritario 3) and the PON “Ricerca e Innovazione 2014-2020 Azione IV.5 - Dottorati su tematiche green” provided funding for this research, which facilitated collaboration between academics from the University of Malta and scientists from the University of Catania, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (Osservatorio Etneo), the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA).

This collaboration led to the development of an innovative method for monitoring ocean conditions by integrating and merging data from various instruments including seismometers, wavemeter buoys, geostationary satellites, and HF radars. Seismometers were one of the first geophysical instruments to be used. Historical records can now be analysed to identify similar extreme meteo-marine events that happened in the past.

Sebastiano D’Amico and Adam Gauci form part of the Department of Geosciences at the University of Malta.

Sound Bites

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For more sound bites listen to Radio Mocha every Saturday at 7.30pm on Radju Malta and the following Monday at 9pm on Radju Malta 2 https://


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•        A typical teaspoon of soil in the Amazon contains 400 different fungal species.

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