Western coast saves Malta from worse storm damage, scientist says

Academic says extreme wind and wave conditions are known to have a return period of the order of 10 years

Strong winds caused damage on land but Malta's western cliffs saved the islands from worse damage
Strong winds caused damage on land but Malta's western cliffs saved the islands from worse damage

The meteo-marine conditions around the Maltese islands and the Malta-Sicily channel in the night between 13 and 14 December were amongst the strongest triggered by recent storms.

Prof. Aldo Drago, of the University of Malta’s department of geosciences, said that a depression on the Adriatic Sea had produced a steep atmospheric pressure gradient over the Central Mediterranean, leading to north-westerly gale winds reaching up to 50mph in the open seas close to Malta and Sicily on Saturday morning.

“These extreme conditions were predicted and assessed by numerical atmospheric and wave models which verified the evolution of the storm, accompanied by torrential rain especially in the sea north of Malta, and by very high waves reaching a significant wave height of 7m west of Gozo where the exposure to Mistral wind is conspicuous,” Drago said.

Such extreme wind and wave conditions are known to have a return period of the order of 10 years.

“The damages reported on land were considerable, but what was witnessed on land cannot be in any way compared to the force and vehemence experienced at sea. Luckily the western coast was hit this time, with waves exhausting their energy against the high standing cliffs and this relatively uninhabited stretch of coast of Malta and Gozo, otherwise the consequences would have been much worse,” Drago said.

The Physical Oceanography Research Group specialises in the operational running of several numerical models that simulate and make predictions of atmospheric conditions and sea states. The service is provided in real time at www.capemalta.net to national stakeholders that need such data and to general users by means of the Kaptan smartphone app.

 

 

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