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Some Locations Exposed to Meteotsunamis
Area Country Max Height (m)
Nagasaki Bay Japan 4.8
Pohang Harbour Korea 0.8
Longkou Harbour China 3
Ciutadella Harbour Spain 4
Gulf of Trieste Italy 1.5
West Sicily Italy 1.5
Malta Malta 1
Great Lakes[1] USA/Canada 3
Daytona Beach[1] United States of America 3.5

A meteotsunami or meteorological tsunami[2] is a tsunami-like wave phenomenon of meteorological (atmosphere and air pressure related) origin. Meteotsunamis propagate in the water in the same way as other waves, including tsunamis, and have the same coastal dynamics, but unlike tsunamis, they are not caused by geological events in the earth's crust ("plate tectonics") nor by impact events such as landslide and meteor strikes. Instead they are essentially a kind of storm surge - a raising of sea level or large amplitude seiche oscillation in the sea, caused by intense low pressure or certain wind conditions associated with tropical storms and hurricanes, in the troposphere. These kinds of waves are called meteotsunamis because, for an observer on the coast where it strikes, the two types would look the same. The difference is in their source only.

These tsunami-like ocean waves are principally caused by traveling air pressure disturbances, including those associated with atmospheric gravity waves, roll clouds, pressure jumps, frontal passages, and squalls, which normally generate barotropic ocean waves in the open ocean and amplify them near the coast through specific resonance mechanisms.[3] In contrast to "ordinary" impulse-type tsunami sources, a travelling atmospheric disturbance normally interacts with the ocean over a limited period of time (from several minutes to several hours).

Devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike's meteotsunamic storm surge over the Bolivar Peninsula in 2008.

These types of waves are common all over the world and are better known by their local names: rissaga (Catalan), milghuba (Maltese), marrobbio (Italian), abiki (Japanese), šćiga (Croatian).

Total destruction of the Bolivar Peninsula by Hurricane Ike's meteotsunamic storm surge in 2008

Tropical cyclone storm surges[edit]

Meteotsunami associated with tropical cyclones storm surges[4] can be particularly destructive, typically arriving shortly after landfall of the storm's eye.[5][6]

Speed of a meteotsunami[edit]

In the Western Atlantic, a meteotsunami’s deep water speed can reach 732 km/h (455 mph). This value is equivalent to the long-wave speed of a barotropic wave at a depth of 4200 m.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Becky Oskin (December 12, 2012). "Freak 'Meteotsunamis' Can Strike On A Sunny Day". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ Tsunami Glossary 2008, UNESCO
  3. ^ Tia Ghose (August 6, 2013). "Bizarre 'Meteotsunami' Stirred Waves in UK". Yahoo! News, LiveScience. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  4. ^ Monserrat, S.; Vilibíc I.; Rabinovich A.B (2006). "Meteotsunamis: atmospherically induced destructive ocean waves in the tsunami frequency band" (PDF). Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 6 (6): 1035–1051. doi:10.5194/nhess-6-1035-2006. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "Ike's Texas-Sized Tales Of Survival". CBS News. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 19 December 2013. "It was like an atomic bomb going off. Right after the eye passed, whole houses came by us at 30 miles an hour." 
  6. ^ Eyewitness video of Supertyphoon Haiyan's meteotsunamic storm surge on November 6, 2013
  7. ^ Alfonso-Sosa, Edwin (2014). "Calculating the Speed of a Transatlantic Meteotsunami on June 13 2013" (PDF): 1–9. Retrieved 2014-05-26. 

External links[edit]