Climate forcing of unprecedented intense-hurricane activity in the last 2000 years

TitleClimate forcing of unprecedented intense-hurricane activity in the last 2000 years
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDonnelly, JP, Hawkes, AD, Lane, P, MacDonald, D, Shuman, BN, Toomey, MR, van Hengstum, PJ, Woodruff, JD
Date PublishedFEB
Type of ArticleArticle
KeywordsClimate change, common era, Holocene, sea surface temperature, tropical cyclones

How climate controls hurricane variability has critical implications for society 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 C.E., and provide modern analogs for 32 other prehistoric event beds. Two intervals of heightened frequency of event bed deposition between 1400 and 1675 C.E. (10 events) and 150 and 1150 C.E. (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 C.E., with high levels of activity persisting in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until 1400 C.E. This interval was one with relatively warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the main development region (MDR). A shift in activity to the North American east coast occurred ca. 1400 C.E., with more frequent severe hurricane strikes recorded from The Bahamas to New England between 1400 and 1675 C.E. A warm SST anomaly along the western North Atlantic, rather than within the MDR, likely contributed to the later active interval being restricted to the east coast.