The 1954 Lake Michigan “meteotsunami”

Weather Blog

Dear readers,
A major Chicago weather-related tragedy occurred on June 26, 1954 when a freak, post-t-storm, 8-10 foot wave swept eight fishermen to their deaths. This event has always been referred to as a seiche, an oscillation of water, causing a sudden rise. In recent years, scientists have determined the event was not a seiche, but a meteotsunami, a term first attributed to Austrian meteorologist Albert Defant in 1961. While seiches and meteotsunamis are both driven by increases in air pressure and winds, which push a wall of water across the lake, seiches cover large portions of the lake, while meteotsunamis are limited to the width of the storm. Seiches have been described as water sloshing in a bathtub, while a meteotsunami is likened to hand slapping the water across the tub and then having it reflect back. Today’s weather graphic documents this deadly event.

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