Thursday, February 19, 2015

Intense New England Hurricanes Much More Numerous 340 to 1800 Years Ago

The storm surge from Category 2 Hurricane Carol in 1954 batters New England's Edgewood Yacht Club near Providence, Rhode Island. (Credit: NOAA Photo Library)  Click to Enlarge.
Numerous Category 3 and 4 hurricanes frequently pounded New England during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages, said a study accepted for publication this month in the open-access journal Earth’s Future, Climate Forcing of Unprecedented Intense-Hurricane Activity in the Last 2,000 Years.  These prehistoric hurricanes were stronger than any hurricane documented to hit the region since the mid-1800s, and would be catastrophic if they hit the region today, according to Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts and lead author of the new paper.  In a press release, Donnelly said, “We hope this study broadens our sense of what is possible and what we should expect in a warmer climate.  We may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years.”

The paper is the latest contribution to the field of paleotempestology--the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means sediment deposits, cave speleothems, tree rings, coral deposits, as well as historical documentary records.  In this case, the researchers took sediment cores from Salt Pond near Falmouth on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The pond is separated from the ocean by a 1.3- to 1.8-meter (4.3- to 5.9-foot) high sand barrier.  Over hundreds of years, storm surges from Category 2 and stronger hurricanes have deposited sediment over the barrier and into the pond.  The scientists were able to calibrate the timing of the intense hurricane strikes by dating the layers from Category 2 Hurricane Bob of 1991, the 1675 (September 7) New England hurricane, and the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635, which passed across southeastern New England and caused widespread damage consistent with a category 3 hurricane.

Read more at Intense New England Hurricanes Much More Numerous 340 to 1800 Years Ago

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