A severe squall line of storms raced through the northeast Tuesday May 14, 2018. Not only did these storms produce flooding, damaging winds and a few tornadoes, but also a phenomena called a meteotsunami.
So what is a meteotsunami? While you've likely heard of a tsunami, which are gigantic waves produced primarily by earthquakes, meteotsunamis are driven by a rapid jump in air pressure associated with fast-moving weather event like severe thunderstorms.
Storms that moved across the area yesterday ended up creating a meteotsunami across the Mid-Atlantic & up into the SNE coastline. You can see the meteotsunami in the water fluctuations from area tidal gauges, esp in the New Haven gauge. Learn more here: https://t.co/o7GgowMUI2 pic.twitter.com/tble00XnNN— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) May 16, 2018
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That's exactly what happened along the Delaware and New Jersey coastlines on Tuesday. According to NOAA, severe events like this can generate waves that move towards the shore, and are amplified by a shallow continental shelf and inlet, bay or other coastal features. Some meteotsunamis have been observed to reach as high as 6 feet.
A meteo-tsunami? Seemingly so in collaboration w/ the National Data Buoy Center well S of Long Island as a result of recent convection ... we're monitoring buoy 44402. Statement: https://t.co/OCB69KpqrX ... buoy info: https://t.co/kmGtGldGqj pic.twitter.com/YvVWIxf2wa— NWS Boston (@NWSBoston) May 16, 2018
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Meteotsunamis can occur in many places, including the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Coast and the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.