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Hurricanes and climate: application of paleoclimate evidence from the past 13,000 years

  • 112 O&M Building, Texas A&M University (map)


There remains some uncertainty regarding how the climatology of tropical cyclones will respond to climate changes over the next century.  Global models that simulate coarse analogs of these systems tend to predict a decline in their frequency with warmer conditions, but higher resolution models that resolve individual storms show that surviving systems are likely to have stronger winds and more rain.  Other modeling techniques have predicted both stronger and more frequent events, in contrast to the decline seen in global models.  Given the uncertainty, our group has been investigating how these same techniques respond to the far wider range of climates in the geologic past: from the Last Glacial Maximum to hot periods such as the early Eocene epoch. 

Yet these distant periods—like the future century yet to occur—have no data from individual weather events to compare model simulations against.  Here I will focus on our results for more recent periods that offer some information of storm variability from sedimentary cores both on and offshore.  We show that an increase in the amount of summer radiation during the middle Holocene leads to a thermodynamically less favorable environment, which is consistent with proxies of past storminess showing less Northern Hemisphere activity before 5,000 years before present.  And we compare new data suggesting a stormier period near Florida during the colder Younger Dryas with changes in environmental conditions in a simulation of the period.