Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Meteotsunami" Hits Florida: A New Weather Word Explained

The effects of a meteotsunami along the
Adriatic Sea in 2008. 
During the tornadoes and severe storms that hit Florida early Sunday, something called a "meteotsunami" hit the Gulf Coast city of Naples.

Add that to the list of isoteric meteorological terms getting batted around, like Polar Vortex or El Nino or Arctic Oscillation.

A tsunami, as most of us know, is a huge flood of waves and water caused by an undersea earthquake or landslide.

A meteotsunami, as the name suggests, is caused by a meteorological or weather situation.

An intense squall line connected to a strong storm system approached Naples from the Gulf of Mexico very early Sunday morning.

The squall line abruptly reduced the air pressure in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which allowed water levels to rise, note Kris Mattarochia, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Miami, according to the Naples Daily News.

Very strong winds associated with the squall line also helped make water levels rise and shove that high water to the coast. (Note that the wind gusted to 85 mph in Naples when the squall line came through.

This push of high water coincided with high tide, resulting in coastal flooding in downtown Naples and surrounding areas, the Naples Daily News reported. However, the most extensive damage in and around Naples was due to the wind with the squall line.

Numerous buildings and trees were trashed by the gusts.

Meteotsunamis are more common than you'd think. Some famously came ashore in Florida during hte epic Superstorm of March, 1993. A bad one hit Daytona Beach one day in July, 1992, injuring 75 people and damaging about 100 cars.

Storm chaser Jim Edds took a series of photos showing a meteotsunami striking Panama City Beach, Florida in March, 2014. Watch:

 d David Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
The arrival of the squall line to Southwest Florida at high tide caused flooding in downtown Naples and the damage seen in Golden Gate and other areas of the county.
At the Naples Municipal Airport, winds were recorded as strong as 85 mph.
Ross said wave height reached 7.36 feet, which was more than 5.5 feet above the predicted level for the day. Meteotsunamis occur a few times a year and are more common with systems that come across the Gulf, he said.
According to NOAA, in the United States, conditions for destructive meteotsunamis are favorable in the Gulf of Mexico, along the East Coast and in the Great Lakes. One notable meteotsunami in Florida took place in July 1992 in Daytona Beach. A 10-foot wave crashed ashore shortly before midnight, causing injuries to 75 people and damaging property and 100 cars.

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