Meteosunamis. You may not have heard the term before. It’s a weather-related phenomenon that occurs around the world, and here in the Great Lakes. Atmospheric weather events such as a fast-moving thunderstorm, squalls, or a derecho could provide the right ingredients for a meteotsunami.
Bryan Mroczka, physics scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, says, “When you picture a boat and you think of a boat, you think of one of these big girders moving through the water and pushing that bow wave out. Well, the thunderstorm winds and the changes in barometric pressure that accompany them do something very similar. So if you have the right conditions, the right wind and the right setup, this thunderstorm will push a wave ahead of it. And it is this wave that becomes a meteotsunami and can come ashore.”
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Adds Eric Anderson, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, “We detected meteotsunamis on each of the Great Lakes using water level records from gauges around the lakes. But there are certainly hotspots, most notably Southern Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. And that really has to do with both the shape of the lake, the depth of the lake, and the weather that we have at the southern end of the Great Lakes.”
The most recent significant Lake Michigan meteotsunami struck Ludington, Michigan on April 13, 2018. This meteotsunami actually triggered the current ongoing research.
Bryan Morczka: “We’re starting to get a clearer picture of what’s behind the making. And so we’ve started putting some buoys out there that are going to help us determine if this water rise, this barometric pressure change, this wind change is starting out here. And that could potentially give us, you know, up to an hour, half an hour when we see that rise in water. And we know it’s coming, that might be just enough time to get people off shore.”
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And this Meteotsunami buoy is located in the southern basin of Lake Michigan.
Kyle Beadle, engineer, says: “So on the top we have a barometer that we collect data from and on the bottom we just have a pressure sensor that picks up the pressure changes and transmits that data back and gives you a rough estimate of whether whether there is a meteotsunami or not.”
When there is a certain threshold pressure change, this instrument will start scanning faster and collect more data, such as: B. how fast it is going and when it should arrive at the bank. Scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan are busy collecting data on these types of weather events.
Steve Ruberg, Observing Systems Researcher at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, “So what we’re doing in this case is actually trying to collect some data, take some measurements of these meteorologically-driven tsunamis so we can create some kind of warning system, some kind of Forecasting system to warn people about these events that happen so seldom on the Great Lakes.”
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Meteotsunamis come in different sizes and they can be dangerous. So make sure you know the forecast and always be prepared for the weather. For Science of Weather, I’m meteorologist Kylee Miller.