A tsunami by many other names

Meteorological tsunamis, known locally in Spain as “Rissaga,” have often struck the long, narrow harbor at Ciutadella on the Spanish island of Menorca, part of the Balearic Islands, which also include Mallorca and Ibiza. A 4-meter-high wave in June 1984 damaged dozens of boats.

Storm-triggered waves have been recognized and recorded around the world, including the U.S. where, in addition to the Great Lakes, they have occurred in New England, on the West Coast and on the Gulf Coast. In some parts of the world, they are common enough to have special names. In Croatia, the phenomenon is called Šćiga; in Malta, it is Milghuba; in Spain, Rissaga; in Japan, Abiki; and in Finland, Seebär. Scientists everywhere call them meteorological tsunamis, or meteotsunamis. Here are a few notable occurrences:

  • A 4-meter-high meteotsunami struck Nagasaki Bay in Japan in 1979.
  • A 5-meter wave took out cars in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 1992.
  • In June 2006, a meteotsunami struck Ciutadella Harbor on Menorca Island, Spain, causing 10 million euros in damage to boats and the town.
  • A 3.5-meter surge poured into Boothbay Harbor, Maine, in 2008. 
Sara E. Pratt
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 19:00

Did you know ...

The digital edition of EARTH Magazine is a free subscription for members of AGI's Member Societies.  Find out more!

EARTH only uses professional science journalists and scientists to author our content?  In this era of fake news and click-bait, EARTH offers factual and researched journalism. But EARTH is a non-profit magazine, and at least 10 times more people read EARTH than pay for it. As advertising revenues across the media decline, we need your help to ensure that we can continue bringing you the reliable and well-written coverage of earth science you know and love. Our goal is not only to inform our readers, but to inform decision makers across the economic and political spectrum about the science of our planet. So, we need your help. By becoming a subscriber or making a tax-deductible contribution to support EARTH, you can fund our writers and help make sure the world knows about our planet.

Make a contribution