The West Cork ‘tsunami’ was felt as far away as France and Cornwall

Marine experts investigating abnormal tidal conditions that occurred in West Cork on Saturday believe they may have been caused by a significant atmospheric disturbance, the effects of which were felt as far away as France, Cornwall and Wales .

Unusual tidal activity seen at the ports of Union Hall and Courtmacsherry on Saturday afternoon saw water levels drop dramatically within minutes, leaving boats stranded and locals fearing a possible tsunami could heads towards them. Witnesses said water levels dropped faster and further than anyone could remember.

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 probably a meteotsunami rather than earthquake or landslide.

“There was a small earthquake recorded near the Azores,” he said, “but it was probably too small and too distant to impact the Irish coast of a magnitude comparable to what we seen at Union Hall and Courtmacsherry”.

According to Professor Frédéric Dias, Principal Investigator at MaREI, the SFI Energy, Climate and Marine Research and Innovation Center coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork, events in the West Cork were part of a larger anomaly affecting a wide area.

“What’s interesting is that it’s not a local phenomenon. It’s more global, it was also felt in France too. He said scientists were currently collecting large amounts of data in an effort to figure out what happened.

“It appears to be due to an atmospheric disturbance, with effects that may be magnified locally,” he said.

Dr McCarthy said the ports of Union Hall and Courtmacsherry were regularly affected by seiching, a regular swing in tidal currents caused by atmospheric pressure.

“Seiching is basically water moving back and forth and that normally happens in these two bays. My best guest is that this regular fishing coincided with a dramatic and sudden change in atmospheric pressure somewhere above- over the Atlantic off the west coast of Cork.

Dr Gerard McCarthy: “If you imagine someone dropping a large volume of water directly onto the sea, that’s the kind of effect we’re talking about.” Photo courtesy of Maynooth University

“If you imagine someone dropping a large volume of water directly onto the sea, that’s the kind of effect we’re talking about. That pressure combined with the steady back and forth of water in those bays could have created a dramatic and unusual effect like the one we saw.

Dr McCarthy said such occurrences occur fairly regularly around the Irish coast, but are more common in winter.

“It’s something that can happen anywhere, but if you get the right combination of factors you can see something quite dramatic happen like it happened along the west coast of Cork this weekend,” he said.

Dr McCarthy said a large atmospheric event was the likely cause, as the effects were seen in the UK.

“It certainly had an impact, although less severe further along the Irish coast at Wexford and there is also evidence that it was felt in Wales and Cornwall, so it was quite an event. important.”

Charter boat operator David Edwards, who witnessed the tidal event at Courtmacsherry, said: ‘The water was rushing in like a river. I had never seen anything like it before. The first thing you think of is the “tsunami” and to be honest if it was any faster I think we would all have headed for the hills.

At Union Hall, Adrian Nowotynski was mooring his boat when the phenomenon hit.

“It was going so fast that my boat was keeled to the bottom, along with a number of yachts and fishing trawlers, and I had never seen this before. My first instinct was that there must be an earthquake somewhere, no one had ever seen the like of it at Union Hall before,” he said.

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