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A tsunami might have struck the East Coast earlier this month, and few noticed

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NOAA radar image of possible tsunami (Credit: NOAA/US National Weather Service)
NOAA radar image of possible tsunami (Credit: NOAA/US National Weather Service)

You have probably heard the old adage, "if a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Now imagine that same thought experiment, except with a tsunami instead of a tree. That's the intriguing question facing scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who are examining tsunami-like data from recorded earlier this month by more than 30 tidal gauges in the Atlantic, as The Associated Press reports today.

The tidal gauges, which stretch from North Carolina, down the US East Coast and all the way to the Caribbean, picked up sudden peaks in wave amplitude consistent with a tsunami on June 13, the same day that a strong storm rolled through the region. One man spearfishing off the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey, said he saw a 6-foot wave sweep three people off the shore and injuring two of them. NOAA wont know for sure whether it was a small tsunami (defined as a series of destructive, fast-moving waves caused by sudden displacements of terrain of the ocean floor) or just storm surge, at least not until it sends out a sonar-equipped boat to look for evidence of an underwater land slide. Either way, for those affected, it certainly wasn't an ordinary day at the beach.