Research

Predicting Meteotsunamis

Meteotsunamis, or meteorological tsunamis, are large waves driven by weather rather than seismic energy. Although they occur along shorelines throughout the world, forecasters have very little infrastructure in place to predict or detect them. But a new study of an April 2018 meteotsunami on Lake Michigan (pictured above) has provided evidence that existing models may be able to forecast these events.

The Lake Michigan meteotsunami was driven by an atmospheric gravity wave, which carried with it a substantial pressure drop. Most of the time such waves travel faster or slower than water waves, and there is little to no interaction. But on this day, the atmospheric wave and the water waves were traveling at the same speed in the same direction, creating a resonance that strengthened the water wave.

Using existing National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) models, researchers were able to reconstruct the event digitally, with results that agreed well with observations. That success means that forecasters may be able to predict the events ahead of time, potentially saving lives. (Image credit: D. Maglothin; research credit: E. Anderson and G. Mann; via Gizmodo)

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