Meteotsunamis in the northern Baltic Sea and their relation to synoptic patterns

Havu Pellikka, Jadranka Šepić*, Ilari Lehtonen, Ivica Vilibić

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Low-tidal coastal regions, such as the Baltic Sea, are known to be particularly vulnerable to exceptional high-frequency sea level oscillations such as meteotsunamis. Possibilities of studying sub-hourly sea level variations have recently improved, owing to advancement in temporal resolution of tide gauge observations. In this work, we study high-frequency (period <6 h) sea level oscillations – strongest of which we consider to be meteotsunamis – on the coast of Finland, in the northern Baltic Sea, using quality-checked 1-min observations collected between 2004 and 2015 at 13 tide gauge stations. The intensity of the oscillations varies substantially between stations due to local coastal morphologies. The most intense oscillations predominantly occur in late summer and autumn, although the seasonality may differ between sub-regions. Measured atmospheric data and reanalysis products related to the strongest events reveal two distinct types of atmospheric processes and governing synoptic patterns that are mostly associated with warmer and colder period of year. Consequently, meteotsunamis are classified as summer-type or winter-type events. Most of the summer-type events are caused by surface atmospheric pressure jumps associated with mesoscale convective systems, which are advancing northward over the sea and are embedded into a mid-troposphere jet overtopping an inflow of warm low-troposphere air. At the surface, weak air pressure gradients due to a high-pressure area to the east and a low-pressure area to the west of the Baltic are usually found during summer-type events. The winter-type events, on the contrary, are mostly related to cold fronts and strong northerly-northwesterly-westerly winds at the surface layer. Contrary to summer-type events, surface atmospheric pressure jumps are not necessarily detected during the strongest winter-type events. Deep lows and extratropical cyclones are commonly centered to the north of the Baltic Sea and, at the mid-troposphere level, there is a pronounced westerly jet stream. A hypothesis about the generation mechanism of intense high-frequency sea level oscillations is given: Proudman resonance appears to be the main driver of summer-type events, whereas the main driver of winter-type events is less clear.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100527
Number of pages18
JournalWeather and Climate Extremes
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Baltic sea
  • High-frequency sea level oscillations
  • Meteotsunami
  • Sea level extremes
  • Sea level variations


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