Climate Forcing of Unprecedented Intense-Hurricane Activity in the Last 2,000 Years

Earth’s Future (Feb. 11, 2015;DOI: 10.1002/2014EF000274) / by Jeffrey P. Donnelly, et al.

[Climate Wire article by Gayathri Vaidyanatha, sub. req’d]  Intense hurricanes may become more frequent along the U.S. East Coast as climate change warms up the Atlantic Ocean, which is an incubator of storms in the region.

[Abstract[ How climate controls hurricane variability has critical implications for society but is not well understood. In part, our understanding is hampered by the short and incomplete observational hurricane record. Here we present a synthesis of intense-hurricane activity from the western North Atlantic over the past two millennia, which is supported by a new, exceptionally well-resolved record from Salt Pond, Massachusetts (USA). At Salt Pond, three coarse grained event beds deposited in the historical interval are consistent with severe hurricanes in 1991 (Bob), 1675, and 1635 CE, and provide modern analogs for thirty-two other prehistoric event beds. Two intervals of heightened frequency of event bed deposition between 1400 and 1675 CE (10 events) and 150 and 1150 CE (23 events), represent the local expression of coherent regional patterns in intense-hurricane-induced event beds. Our synthesis indicates that much of the western North Atlantic appears to have been active between 250 and 1150 CE, with high levels of activity persisting in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until 1400 CE. This interval was one with relatively warm sea surface temperatures in the main development region. A shift in activity to the North American east coast occurred ca. 1400 CE, with more frequent severe hurricane strikes recorded from The Bahamas to New England between 1400 and 1675 CE. A warm sea surface temperature anomaly along the western North Atlantic, rather than within the main development region, likely contributed to the later active interval being restricted to the east coast.


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