Thunderstorms help trigger tsunami at Jersey Shore

It wasn't the kind that causes destruction, but it still led officials to issue a caution.

Ian Bush
May 16, 2018 - 2:21 pm
Bouy
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Tuesday's thunderstorms helped trigger a tsunami at the Jersey Shore. It wasn't the kind that causes destruction, but it still led officials to issue a caution. 

It's called a meteotsunami -- different from a wave generated by an earthquake or landslide; this is caused by particular weather conditions.

"They're not very well understood," said National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Johnson. "We know it needs to be a line of strong thunderstorms moving relatively quickly, and that it needs to have a pressure rise behind the line of thunderstorms."

Johnson says a bouy off the coast of Atlantic City registered a drop of more than a foot and then a quick rise of more than nine inches.

"In less than 30 minutes," she said. "That's kind of typical of a meteotsunami. If you think of a bathtub, if you disturb the water, you see it slosh back and forth."

While waves like this don't lead to damage inland, they can be hazardous.

"Because it can create some very strong and unpredictable currents," Johnson explained.

A meteotsunami at the Barnegat Inlet in 2013 measured six feet and left two people hurt when they were swept off a jetty.