From the ABC 7 Weather team

A mini tsunami, or 'seiche,' strikes on Lake Superior (VIDEO)

June 10, 2011 - 01:07 PM
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Seiches have also been spotted on Lake Tahoe, in Scotland and on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. In 1954, a major seiche killed eight people in Chicago.


Actually, no. But “SEICHE!!!” just doesn’t have the same ring.

The video below shows a type of rogue wave that can strike on lakes, harbors, reservoirs and even swimming pools. (Although I’m still waiting for the video of that.) This seiche – a French word that implies swaying back and forth, even if the technical meaning is “cuttlefish” – occurred on Lake Superior in May. Seiches have also been spotted on the other Great Lakes, Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, in Scotland and on Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

In June 1954, a seiche with a towering wave 10 feet tall swept away and drowned eight people on Lake Michigan. That’s why the National Weather Service takes these freak mini-tidal waves seriously, issuing alerts whenever one seems possible. When is that? Well, check out this diagram from the Illinois State Geological Survey:

1954 seiche on lake michigan

Our domestic seiches are often caused when wind associated with storm systems push water against the side of a lake or another enclosed body of water. (They can also be triggered by earthquakes.) In the 1954 seiche’s case, the bunched-up water caromed off one side of Michigan* and amplified before smashing into the Chicago shoreline.

The waves are often unnoticeable to boaters but occur regularly on the Great Lakes every year, drooping the water level by several inches or a couple feet. The fact that no other deadly seiche has struck on the lakes only increases the weather phenomenon’s aura of mystery. (Hat tip to ABC7's Alex Liggitt for the video.)

*Of course it wasn't Lake Superior as originally reported. That'd just be stupid.

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