Meteotsunamis Possible On Florida's Atlantic Coast, Too

Jan 22, 2016

It was so small you might have missed it, but a tsunami struck the west coast of Florida near Naples last Sunday.

The meteorological tsunami or “meteotsunami” caused coastal flooding and made high tide peak six feet higher than normal.


Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist for the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, said that although meteotsunamis and tsunamis have similar effects they have different origins. Tsunamis originate under water, from an undersea earthquake or volcanic eruption. Meteotsunamis are caused by above-water changes in atmospheric pressure.


Huffman said tropical storm force winds over the Gulf of Mexico, along with a squall line that resulted in a cold front, caused last Sunday's meteotsunami. He also said meteotsunamis aren’t just a Gulf Coast phenomenon.

"It’s not impossible for something like this to happen on the Atlantic side," Huffman said. Meteotsunamis are more likely to occur on the Gulf Coast because  squalls and cold fronts usually move from west to east. But, Huffman added, tropical storms or hurricanes on Florida's east coast could cause meteotsunamis there, too.

El Niño weather patterns mean both Florida coasts could see more storms -- and more meteotsunamis -- in the months ahead, Huffman said.