For a state that sees natural disasters regularly, the words "Florida" and "tsunami" rarely, if ever, go together within a sentence.
Yet, some residents of Clearwater Beach found themselves at the scene of a small one on Wednesday afternoon, even if they might not realize it.
According to experts, the Gulf of Mexico beach was hit by a meteotsunami, a small type of tsunami. Here's what we know about the situation so far.
Meteotsunmai causes tragedy: A rogue wave caused a cruise ship tragedy. They occur more often than you think.
Did Florida get a tsunami?
Yes, it did, but more of a "tiny" one. According to the Weather Channel's Ari Salsalari, on Wednesday, June 21, Clearwater Beach experienced a meteotsunami.
The meteorologist explained that the strong squall line, known as a line of thunderstorms, showed it was in a small tsunami.
"Before the storms arrived, the wind was pretty light and out of the Southwest … and then sort of like a cold front, the winds switched out of the Northwest, so they kind of switched directions and they became pretty gusty right as the heavy rain arrived," Salsalari said in a video posted to the Weather Channel site. "But here's the thing, unlike a cold front, the pressure actually rose as the squalls made it to the shoreline."
He showed that the pressure picked by around 2 p.m., adding that the rising pressure and changing direction of the wind caused water levels to jump by roughly two and a half feet.
What is a meteotsunami?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration writes that meteotsunamis, unlike tsunamis triggered by seismic activity, are driven by air-pressure disturbances often associated with fast-moving weather events, such as severe thunderstorms, squalls, and other storm fronts. The storm generates a wave that moves toward the shore and is amplified by a shallow continental shelf and inlet, bay, or other coastal features.
These are still being studied and understood by scientists. So far, meteotsunamis have been observed to reach heights of over 6 feet and occur in many places around the world, including the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast, and the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas.
What is the difference between a meteotsunami and seiches?
NOAA shares that meteotsunamis and seiches will be confused for one another, as winds and atmospheric pressure can contribute to the formation of both.
However, winds are typically more important to a seiche motion, while pressure often plays a substantial role in meteotsunami formation. Seiches are standing waves with longer periods of water-level oscillations, typically exceeding periods of three or more hours. Meteotsunamis are progressive waves limited to the tsunami frequency band of wave periods anywhere from two minutes to two hours.
What is a rip current? How to stay safe in the ocean when risks are high
Has Florida ever had a tsunami?
There have been eight tsunamis in Florida since 1848, with the most recent one being in 2001.
Is it likely for a tsunami to happen in Florida?
Experts claim the Atlantic Ocean has a relatively low rate of tsunami occurrences. Florida very rarely experiences many tsunamis, but it is still at risk.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Tsunami in Florida? What to know about tiny hit to Clearwater Beach