Group is studying tsunamis on the Great Lakes

An interesting, albeit somewhat unusual gathering, is taking place this week in Ann Arbor.

The University of Michigan’s Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research is hosting a three-day meeting of experts who are seeking ways to warn the general public about tsunamis on the Great Lakes. Yes, you read that correctly, tsunamis on the Great Lakes.

Many readers will be surprised to learn that tsunamis are regular occurrences on the Great Lakes. In fact, more than 100 such events take place annually on the inland seas. What makes the tsunamis that take place on the Great Lakes different than the ones that beset ocean-side communities, size, of course, aside, is their origin: Ocean tsunamis typically start with earth quakes displacing large sections of the ocean floor, shifting vast amounts of water, resulting in the tsunami. Volcanic eruptions and large landslides can have a similar impact.

In the Great Lakes, however, the culprit is most often sudden and profound changes in barometric pressure associated with unpredictable weather patterns, The Associated Press reported. Scientists call them “meteotsunamis.” In some cases, people standing on piers or swimming along shorelines have been swept to their deaths, AP noted.

It’s unclear what kind of warning systems are possible on the Great Lakes or where the money to fund them will come from, given the current attitudes in Washington, D.C. That said, though, underscoring the existence of such phenomena isn’t a bad idea.

We look forward to the group’s recommendations.