A seiche (pronounced /seɪʃ/, or approximately saysh) is a standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water. Seiches and seiche-related phenomena have been observed on lakes, reservoirs, bays and seas. The key requirement for formation of a seiche is that the body of water be at least partially bounded, allowing natural phenomena to form a standing wave.
The term was first promoted by the Swiss hydrologist François-Alphonse Forel in 1890, who had observed the effect in Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The word originates in a Swiss French dialect word that means "to sway back and forth", which had apparently long been used in the region to describe oscillations in alpine lakes.
Seiches are often imperceptible to the naked eye, and observers in boats on the surface may not notice that a seiche is occurring due to the extremely long wavelengths. The effect is caused by resonances in a body of water that has been disturbed by one or more of a number of factors, most often meteorological effects (wind and atmospheric pressure variations), seismic activity or by tsunamis. Gravity always seeks to restore the horizontal surface of a body of liquid water, as this represents the configuration in which the water is in hydrostatic equilibrium. Vertical harmonic motion results, producing an impulse that travels the length of the basin at a velocity that depends on the depth of the water. The impulse is reflected back from the end of the basin, generating interference. Repeated reflections produce standing waves with one or more nodes, or points, that experience no vertical motion. The frequency of the oscillation is determined by the size of the basin, its depth and contours, and the water temperature. The length of the lake is an exact multiple of the distance between nodes.
The longest natural period for a seiche in an enclosed rectangular body of water is usually represented by the Merian formula:
Higher order harmonics are also observed. The period of the second harmonic will be half the natural period, the period of the third harmonic will be a third of the natural period, and so forth.
The National Weather Service issues low water advisories for portions of the Great Lakes when seiches of 2 feet or greater are likely to occur. Lake Erie is particularly prone to wind-caused seiches because of its shallowness and elongation. These can lead to extreme seiches of up to 5 m (16 feet) between the ends of the lake. The effect is similar to a storm surge like that caused by hurricanes along ocean coasts, but the seiche effect can cause oscillation back and forth across the lake for some time. In 1954, Hurricane Hazel piled up water along the northwestern Lake Ontario shoreline near Toronto, causing extensive flooding, and established a seiche that subsequently caused flooding along the south shore.
Lake seiches can occur very quickly: on July 13, 1995, a big seiche on Lake Superior caused the water level to fall and then rise again by three feet (one meter) within fifteen minutes, leaving some boats hanging from the docks on their mooring lines when the water retreated. On Lake Michigan, eight fishermen were swept away and drowned when a 10-foot seiche hit the Chicago waterfront on June 26, 1954.
Lakes in seismically active areas, such as Lake Tahoe in California/Nevada, are significantly at risk from seiches. Geological evidence indicates that the shores of Lake Tahoe may have been hit by seiches and tsunamis as much as 10 m (33 feet) high in prehistoric times, and local researchers have called for the risk to be factored into emergency plans for the region.
Earthquake-generated seiches can be observed thousands of miles away from the epicentre of a quake. Swimming pools are especially prone to seiches caused by earthquakes, as the ground tremors often match the resonant frequencies of small bodies of water. The 1994 Northridge earthquake in California caused swimming pools to overflow across southern California. The massive Good Friday Earthquake that hit Alaska in 1964 caused seiches in swimming pools as far away as Puerto Rico. The earthquake that hit Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 caused seiches in canals 2,000 miles (3,000 km) away in Scotland and Sweden. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake caused seiches in standing water bodies in many Indian states as well as in Bangladesh, Nepal and northern Thailand. Seiches were again observed in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal in India as well as in many locations in Bangladesh during the 2005 Kashmir earthquake . The 1950 Chayu-Upper Assam earthquake is known to have generated seiches as far as Norway and southern England. Other earthquakes in the Indian sub-continent known to have generated seiches include the 1803 Kumaon-Barahat, 1819 Allah Bund, 1842 Central Bengal, 1905 Kangra, 1930 Dhubri, 1934 Nepal-Bihar, 2001 Bhuj, 2005 Nias, 2005 Teresa Island earthquakes.
Seiches can also be induced by tsunami, a wave train (series of waves) generated in a body of water by a pulsating or abrupt disturbance that vertically displaces the water column. On occasion, tsunamis can produce seiches as a result of local geographic peculiarities. For instance, the tsunami that hit Hawaii in 1946 had a fifteen-minute interval between wave fronts. The natural resonant period of Hilo Bay is about thirty minutes. That meant that every second wave was in phase with the motion of Hilo Bay, creating a seiche in the bay. As a result, Hilo suffered worse damage than any other place in Hawaii, with the tsunami/seiche reaching a height of 14 m and killing 159 inhabitants. Seiche waves may continue for several days after a tsunami.
On aquatic monsters: