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Rare meteotsunami hits SE Ireland

A rare meteotsunami hit the coast of southeast Ireland on June 18, 2022. The phenomenon started during the early morning hours and lasted well into the afternoon. It was reportedly felt as far away as France, England and Wales. While meteotsunamis are known to hit this part of Ireland, they are not as strong as this one and they usually occur in winter.

Locals in Cork County, Ireland said they witnessed the tide drop approximately 1.5 m (5 feet) in around 5 minutes. The tide would come in and out twice in less than 30 minutes.1

“People were very concerned, when you see something like that you’d wonder what’s going on,” one of them said. “There were some people trying to get in from a yacht and they were grounded as well. They were a bit further out and said they could see a large wave coming in like a tidal bore.”

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Tim Forde, the commodore of the Glandore Harbour Yacht Club said he and his daughter were crossing the Poulgorm bridge across the top of the harbor when they noticed it.

“It was unbelievable. The tide must have been flowing out at six knots [11 km/h; 7 mph] two hours after low water, and then six minutes later it was coming back in just as fast. There were boats lying aground in the mooring field. It was like tidal bore conditions and changing direction in minutes with mud being carried out to sea.”

The same phenomenon was observed across the sea in Pembrokeshire, Wales, U.K.

“We saw water coming in at seven knots, going back out again and causing boats to lean quite dramatically. It was causing an area of swirling water, a back eddy around the little headland,” one of the witnesses from Pembrokeshire said.2

“If there were people in the water swimming or in kayaks, it would have been quite a serious event to them, because an Olympic swimmer swims at five or six miles an hour and this water was moving considerably faster than that, I would say. They wouldn’t have been able to keep up with it.”

Dr. Gerard McCarthy, an oceanographer with the Irish Climate Research and Analysis Unit in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University, said he believed the most likely cause of the phenomenon was a meteotsunami (seiche) – regular oscillation of tidal currents cause by atmospheric pressure.3

“My best guest is that this regular seiching coincided with a dramatic and sudden change in atmospheric pressure somewhere out over the Atlantic off the coast of West Cork.”

Professor Frédéric Dias, a principal investigator with MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research and innovation, the events in west Cork were part of a larger anomaly affecting a wide area.

“What is interesting is that it is not a local phenomenon. It is more global, it was in fact felt in France as well.”

Dias said scientists are currently collecting large amounts of data in an effort to understand what happened.

“It looks like it was due to an atmospheric disturbance, with effects that can be amplified locally.”

References:

1 Tide Seen Going Wrong Way Off Irish Coast at Multiple Harbours – Unexplained.ie – June 19, 2022

2 Incredible meteotsunami sighting sees tide surge go the wrong way in harbour – Daily Record – June 23, 2022

3 West Cork ‘tsunami’ felt as far away as France and Cornwall – Irish Examiner – June 20, 2022

Featured image credit: Unexplained.ie (stillshot)

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