Has There Ever Been A Tidal Wave in a Michigan Great Lake?
I can't be the only one who has wondered whether or not this was possible. Has there ever been a 'tidal wave' in any of the Great Lakes? Could there be a 'tsunami' coming to a coastline in Michigan? Tidal waves, also known by the Japanese word for harbor wave, 'tsunamis', have nothing to do with 'tides' or anything 'tidal'.
Tsunamis, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, are caused by volcanoes or underwater events, like earthquakes or landslides (yes there are underwater landslides according to the United States Geological Society). If these waves were to originate far off the coast, they may be imperceptible until they reach coastal waters where their true height and devastating power can be seen and felt.
Since Michigan isn't located on or near any active fault lines (Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) that rules out an earthquake causing a tsunami. We also don't have any active volcanoes (although that wasn't always the case) and the likelihood of an underwater landslide in the Great Lakes isn't high, chances are we will never see a true 'tidal wave' or 'tsunami' in one.
That is not to say that there have not been some massive waves in and around the Mitten State. Big white caps are typically created by high winds in our fresh water lakes. MLive reports the largest one on record in Lake Michigan was 23 feet, measured in September of 2011 by a mid-lake buoy. Lake Superior once recorded waves at 29 feet in 2018.
Those records are what has been recorded since they started buoy measurements in 1981. Many speculate that rogue waves exist in these lakes and one such that is claimed to over 40 foot tall is what is responsible for the wreak of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
So the short answer to the question "Has there been or could there ever be a 'tsunami' in on of The Great Lakes? No, not in the traditional sense. Are there some big waves out there? Yes, so wear your lifejacket and listen to Gordon Lightfoot.