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Monday, 13 February 2012

Amazing ‘tsunami cloud’ hits Florida coastline

At first glance, it looks as though a tsunami wave is about to crash into a swathe of high-rise tower blocks.

But for beachgoers and surfers alike along Panama City Beach, Florida, there was no need to panic, the giant wave was just an curious illusion caused by harmless sea fog rolling off the Gulf of Mexico.

The tsunami-like clouds are just a harmless weather phenomenon. Photo: Splashnews
So what’s the science behind the captivating photograph taken from a helicopter earlier this month?

This ‘tsunami cloud’ effect is believed to be caused by a phenomenon known as the ‘Kelvin–Helmholtz instability’ that can occur in both air and water.

 This is when a fast-moving layer of fluid or air washes over a slower, thicker layer – creating the wispy wave effect.

According to helicopter pilot JR Hott, the clouds appear a few times a year but normally further down the coast.

Mr Hott wrote: "When the temperature, humidity and winds are just right, we'll get this fog that forms on the high rise condos on the beach.”

He added: “The event, while it can form quickly, moves gently and slowly. It isn't something that happens with more than a gentle breeze.”

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