Seiche Water Waves and Earthquakes

I think everyone is well aware of the link between tsunamis and earthquakes after the devastation wreaked in recent years on Japan and Indonesia. However, there is a lesser known water wave called a seiche that is limited to semi-enclosed and fully-enclosed bodies of water, such as lakes, bays, swimming pools, and even puddles. I went searching for links between earthquakes and fluid dynamics after I experienced a minor earthquake (4.0 magnitude) here in New England.

A seiche is the term assigned to the to and fro motion of water produced by a forcing motion on an enclosed body of water. The forcing motion, which can be an earthquake or even just the wind, initiates a standing wave in the water. The standing wave is a superposition of waves that travel the length of the water and are then reflected back in the opposite direction. The wave frequency is determined by the geometry of the water enclosure.

Seiches can often be seen in swimming pools in California after some of the frequent earthquakes that hit that region. The result is usually a little benign localized flooding as shown in the video.

Seiches are not always as benign though. Seiches that occur in the great lakes, usually due to storms, have caused damage to shore fronts and loss of life.

Given the relatively weak quake that I experienced and its short duration (I'd estimate about 3 seconds) there wasn't much chance of a seiche developing in our local lake, and indeed, upon inspection the morning after the quake I didn't see any signs of flooding along the shore.

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