An ‘atmospheric tsunami’ struck Malta’s east coast early on Monday morning, June, 18, 2019, stranding boats onto the rocks in Xemxija.
The strange phenomenon started at about 6am, with the sea level rising and falling by around 60 centimetres in regular cycles every few minutes during approximately an hour.
Aldo Drago, head of the University of Malta’s oceanography research group, said the phenomenon was known as a coastal seiche, or milgħuba, caused by atmospheric changes.
“In the early hours of the day a train of atmospheric gravity waves hit the Maltese islands from the east; their impact on the sea is like a big sea hammer repeatedly hitting the sea surface and producing long period waves in the open sea areas,” Prof. Drago said.
The phenomenon was captured by monitoring stations forming part of a national observing system run by the oceanography research group, positioned near Portomaso.
These stations picked up intense atmospheric waves starting at around 2.30am and continuing for around three hours.
Just a few centimetres higher and this atmospheric tsunami would have drifted boats and vehicles away!