Thursday, February 12, 2015

Warmer Seas Linked to East Coast Hurricane Outbreaks

Hurricane Sandy as seen from a NOAA satellite. (Credit: NOAA) Click to Enlarge.
New research shows that hurricane activity picked up along the American East Coast after 1400, following spikes in nearby sea surface temperatures of up to 3.5°F, before waning again late in the 1600s. Researchers who peered into mud to chronicle this and an earlier spike in hurricanes say such storms could become more common again as greenhouse gas pollution heats up the oceans.

“The interval when Columbus is exploring the New World is this interval where we’re seeing increased hurricane activity along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.,” Jeffrey Donnelly, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution palaeoclimatologist, said.  Donnelly led a team of researchers who pinpointed the hurricane peaks after examining 2,000 years worth of storm-thrown sand, which washed from the ocean into a Massachusetts salt pond, settling as layers of sandy sediment that was sandwiched between layers of ever-accumulating mud.  The group also examined findings from similar research, which was conducted using samples from a nearby marsh, that was published in 2010.

Writing in Earth’s Future, an American Geophysical Union journal, the researchers concluded that both hurricane peaks coincided with periods when surface waters of the Atlantic Ocean were hotter than normal.  This is perhaps unsurprising, since hot seas provide energy needed to fuel hurricanes.  But it’s concerning, because similar sea surface warming is now well underway as greenhouse gas pollution heats up the globe.

Read more at Warmer Seas Linked to East Coast Hurricane Outbreaks

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