Meteotsunamis: Little known source of waves on the Great Lakes - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Meteotsunamis: Little known source of waves on the Great Lakes

Posted: Updated:
DULUTH, MN -

Here in the Twin Ports, we're no strangers to serious waves. Just ask anyone on the Lakewalk.

"In November of '93 my roommate and I drove down here to witness the waves. They were crashing over the top of the wall on the lighthouse," Jay Dailey said.

"About six years ago wintertime the waves crashed up so high and then froze, that all the benches, the whole sidewalk all the light fixtures were just inches of ice," Heidi Laliberty said

But on the Great Lakes there is one type of wave many may not know about.Adam Bechle with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and the Wisconsin Sea Grant has been leading a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin Madison to track these waves on the Great Lakes. 

"They're caused by storms moving over the lake and what those storms do is cause changes in water level over very quick time periods," he said.

Those waves are meteotsunamis.

Based on his research he says the Great Lakes see about 100 meteotsunamis of one foot or larger every year.

"The water level itself is changing one foot over the course of a few minutes which can create very  fast moving water and even just a one foot meteotsunami has been known to sweep people out into the lake," he said.

Here's how they work, fast moving storms across the lake cause the water level to change rapidly bringing it into land along with the front, but with Duluth towards the west of Lake Superior, Bechle said meteotsunamis hitting this city aren't too common.

"If you have deeper water the storm that creates your meteotsunami has to move faster so Lake Superior being the deepest of the Great Lakes would require very fast moving storms," he said.

Meteotsunamis are most common in the southern Great Lakes with the most dramatic example striking Chicago in 1954 Chicago killing seven.

Another powerful meteotsunami took place in 2012 when a seven-foot wave swept three swimmers out to sea in Cleveland.

The last major meteotsunami on lake Superior over topped the Soo Locks in 2014.

Powered by Frankly