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Meteotsunami phenomenon could cause drownings in Lake Michigan

Posted at 8:17 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-05 20:15:21-05

MILWAUKEE — Forget the movie ideas of a seismic tsunami, which happens in the ocean from earthquakes. Lake Michigan is at risk for a different kind of tsunami that could cause injury and fatalities.

Scientists with NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory found meteotsunamis develop after large storms like this one in 2018:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Eric Anderson is researching in Ann Arbor about how this phenomenon intensifies rip currents.

"The first shore it impacts is probably going to be the most intense but then it will reflect off that shore and move around," said Anderson.

"It maybe in the order of every five years that we get a really big one that can cause damage and cause injury and fatalities," said Anderson.

He says most people are caught off guard, because the phenomenon happens long after a storm is gone and the sun is out.

Anderson shares one way to tell if it is going to happen, "If you start to notice the water really rapidly rising and pushing into the beach its time to get out of the water take some time off and assess what's going on."

Anderson says his colleagues at NOAA are getting so good at predicting when a meteotsunami could happen, an alert system to warn swimmers to stay out of the water could happen in the next few years.

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