History of Meteotsunamis
There have been a number of occurrences of meteotsunamis in the past that give insight to where meteotsunamis could occur in the future. We took a look at a few main occurrences to understand how meteotsunamis could impact the Great Lakes in particular.
The Adriatic Sea
There have been a number of meteotsunamis that have occurred in the Adriatic Sea, including one in 1978 and 2003. The harbors affected by these events saw waves of 6-8 meters (10). It is thought that the meteorological disturbances leading to these events were atmospheric gravity waves after air masses passed over the Alps (12). While atmospheric gravity waves like this are less likely in the Great Lakes region, it is important to note the characteristics of the harbors affected. See the picture to the right of the marina affected by the 1978 meteotsunami in Vela Luka, Croatia, which may share characteristics of marinas and harbors in the Great Lakes.
Squall-induced pressure jumps traveled at resonant speeds across the Mediterranean Sea in 2007 and created a meteotsunami that hit Ciutadella, Spain (11). This type of meteorological disturbance is likely to happen in the Great Lakes region and, again, the harbor it affected resembles something that could be in the Great Lakes. See the picture to the right of the harbor hit, which has similar geometry to jetties that exist on the eastern coasts of Lake Michigan.
In 1979, a meteotsunami occurred in Nagasaki Bay, Japan that has been studied extensively and has birthed or solidified some of the major findings about meteotsunamis' characteristics. The East China Sea to the west of Nagasaki Bay has depths of 50-100 m, leading to deep water wave speeds of 22-39 m/s. In 1979, a pressure disturbance traveled east towards Nagasaki Bay at 31 m/s, approximately resonant with the associated depths. The ~3 cm waves created by this pressure disturbance were amplified due to resonance to about 12-14 cm, as the pressure front traveled 300 km across the East China Sea. Harbor resonance and amplification lead to 5 m waves, which created mass destruction and resulted in 3 deaths (2).
In 1954, a squall line moved over Lake Michigan towards the Southeast. This system moved at a speed of 66 mph, which is much faster than normal squall lines for the region which move at 20-40 mph. Knowing the speed of 66 mph, the depth required for resonance would be between 275 and 300 feet. This is the same depth of Lake Michigan that the storm crossed over. This created amplified waves headed towards the border of Indiana and Michigan. This wave train reflected off the Eastern coast of Lake Michigan and reflected towards Chicago. Harbor amplification led to waves that reached 10 feet in some places on Chicago's coast (9). The picture to the right shows the storm's path, with the hatched area representing where the storm and depth were in resonance.