Experts are meeting in Ann Arbor this week to discuss a tsunami warning system for the Great Lakes. Scientists say tsunamis happen on the lakes, although many are too small to notice. In fact, the lakes average 106 such events a year. In the oceans, tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. Great Lakes tsunamis result from rapid changes in barometric pressure associated with fast-moving weather systems. Scientists call them “meteotsunamis.” In some cases, people standing on piers or swimming along shorelines have been swept to their deaths.
Meteotsunamis also can cause sudden drops in water levels that endanger nuclear power plants’ cooling systems. The University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research is hosting a meeting from Monday through Wednesday where experts will consider a system for warning the public.
A meteotsunami is blamed for the deaths of seven people in Sawyer in 2003. Originally their drownings were thought to be due to rip currents, but the water level records indicated a moderate meteotsunami happened around the same time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report