Meteotsunami in the Great Lakes and on the Atlantic coast of the United States generated by the “derecho” of June 29–30, 2012

  • Jadranka ŠepićEmail author
  • Alexander B. Rabinovich
Original Paper


Tsunami-like intense sea-level oscillations, associated with atmospheric activity (meteorological tsunamis), are common in the Great Lakes and on the East Coast of the United States. They are generated by various types of atmospheric disturbances including hurricanes, frontal passages, tornados, trains of atmospheric gravity waves, and derechos. “Derecho” is a rapidly moving line of convectively induced intense thunder storm fronts producing widespread damaging winds and squalls. The derecho of June 29–30, 2012 devastatingly propagated from western Iowa to the Atlantic coast, passing more than 1,000 km and producing wind gusts up to 35 m/s. This derecho induced pronounced seiche oscillations in Lake Michigan, Chesapeake Bay, and along the US Atlantic coast. Sea-level records from the updated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tide gauge network, together with the NOAA and automated surface-observing system air pressure and wind records, enabled us to examine physical properties and temporal/spatial variations of the generated waves. Our findings indicate that the generation mechanisms of extreme seiches in the basins under study are significantly different: energetic winds play the main role in seiche formation in Chesapeake Bay; atmospheric pressure disturbances are most important for the Atlantic coast; and the combined effect of pressure oscillations and wind is responsible for pronounced events in the Great Lakes. The “generation coefficient,” which is the ratio of the maximum observed sea-level height and the height of air pressure disturbance, was used to map the sea-level response and to identify “hot spots” for this particular event, i.e., harbors and bays with amplified seiche oscillations. The Froude number, Fr = U/c, where U is the speed of the atmospheric disturbance and c is the long-wave speed, is the key parameter influencing the water response to specific atmospheric disturbances; the maximum response was found for those regions and disturbance parameters for which Fr ~1.0.


Meteotsunami Derecho Great Lakes US East Coast Chesapeake Bay Seiches 


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First of all, we would like to thank Nick Bond, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (NOAA/PMEL, Seattle, WA), who attracted our attention to this event. We gratefully acknowledge the following organizations for providing us with tide gauge and atmospheric data: Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS), the US National Atmospheric and Ocean Administration (NOAA); the Automated Surface-Observing System (ASOS), a joint program of the National Weather Service (NWS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense. DOD), USA; the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), Reading, UK; and the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center. We also thank Paul Whitmore of NOAA/West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center for fruitful comments and supporting this project and Randall Schaetzl of Department of Geography, East Lansing, MI, USA, for providing us the data on historical meteotsunamis in the Great Lakes. Finally, we wish to thank Fred Stephenson of the Canadian Hydrographic Service, Institute of Ocean Sciences (Sidney, British Columbia) for editing the English and helpful advice. This research has been done within the NOAA/NWS Project “Toward a meteotsunami warning system along the US coastline (TMEWS),” Award No. NA11NWS4670005. Work on this study by ABR was partly supported by RFBR Grants 12-05-00733-a and 12-05-00757-a.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Oceanography and FisheriesSplitCroatia
  2. 2.Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ocean Science DivisionInstitute of Ocean SciencesSidneyCanada
  3. 3.P. P. Shirshov Institute of OceanologyRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia

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