Hurricane Irma has already battered parts of Florida, and is set to smash its way up the US state’s west coast in the coming hours. But the storm, which has already broken records for its strength, has produced something so utterly unexpected that it’s caught even the most seasoned of meteorologists off guard: It’s temporarily changed the shape of the ocean.

The storm is so powerful that it’s sucked beaches at both ends virtually dry; the shorelines in Tampa, which is directly in the firing line of Irma, as well as the Bahamas, have receded to a point normally only seen in the prelude to a tsunami. This has turned the region’s beaches into a scene of curiosity for local human residents and one hell of giant temporary playground for canine ones.

This is being caused by Irma’s intense low-pressure at the centre of the storm. The low pressure system is so great that it’s actually pulling water away from affected shorelines, causing the sea to effectively bulge upwards underneath the storm system’s centre.

Meteorologist Angela Fritz explained the extremely rare phenomenon in The Washington Post, noting that while the storm surge isn’t a tsunami, it’s still not smart to be caught in the dry sea bed when the water eventually returns.

As a meteorologist, there are things you learn in textbooks that you may never see in person. You know they happen theoretically, but the chances of seeing the most extraordinary weather phenomena are slim to none. This is one of those things — a hurricane strong enough to change the shape of an ocean.

Hurricane Irma’s winds are so strong, it’s pulling water away from the shoreline. It happened in the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday, and now it’s happening on the Gulf Coast of Florida on Sunday.

At the same time, some locations may be experiencing the effects of the hurricane “bulge.” In the centre of the storm, where the pressure is lowest and the winds are converging, water piles up. Low pressure is basically a sucking mechanism in the sense that it draws the air inward. When the pressure is exceptionally low and the winds are very strong, it can create a bulge of ocean water under the centre of the storm.

The storm battered Miami and the surrounding area over the weekend, and is predicted to strike Tampa as soon as early Monday (local Florida time).

The good news, however, is that those two sweet playing dogs in the first video above are dry and safe, waiting to ride out the storm after a good, long, run around.

BLESS. GOOD LUCK PUPS.

Source: The Washington Post
Image: Getty Images / Brian Blanco