Mini-tsunami hits Malta?

Maltese residents in Msida and Birżebbuġa were alarmed in recent days as the sea rose above its usual levels, flooding low-lying roads.
The cause of the high waters was not climate change or tidal forces but a phenomenon referred to by experts as an 'atmospheric tsunami', technically known as seiche waves or locally as milgħuba. Several instances of it have been recorded in coastal areas around Malta in recent years.

The seiche waves are caused by fluctuating atmospheric pressure that makes open sea waves rise and fall. This is a result either of an area of high pressure out at sea or an area of low pressure at the coast causing the sea to rise. It can also be caused when the wind blows steadily from the same direction for a prolonged period of time. The water oscillates, like in a bathtub when sloshing from one side to the other.

The waves are very similar to tsunami waves but are much smaller and the result of a completely different mechanism, with tsunamis the result of tectonic activity such as earthquakes.

While the phenomenon is unrelated to global sea level rises resulting from climate change, it could offer a snapshot of the challenges Malta could face in this regard in the coming decades.

Maltese experts have warned that a rise in sea levels would affect the entire island, with coastal areas exposed to increased flooding and eventually becoming submerged.

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