Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Harbingers Of Increased Atlantic Hurricane Activity Identified

Date:
August 13, 2009
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Reconstructions of past hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean indicate that the most active hurricane period in the past was during the "Medieval Climate Anomaly" about a thousand years ago when climate conditions created a "perfect storm" of La Nina-like conditions combined with warm tropical Atlantic waters.

This is a bird's eye view of hurricane Katrina approaching the Gulf coast.
Credit: NASA

Reconstructions of past hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean indicate that the most active hurricane period in the past was during the "Medieval Climate Anomaly" about a thousand years ago when climate conditions created a "perfect storm" of La Niña-like conditions combined with warm tropical Atlantic waters.

"La Niña conditions are favorable for hurricanes because they lead to less wind shear in the tropical Atlantic," said Michael E. Mann, professor of meteorology, Penn State. When combined with warm tropical Atlantic ocean temperatures, a requirement for hurricanes to form, conditions become ideal for high levels of activity."

During an El Niño, the more familiar half of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), there is more wind shear in the Caribbean and fewer hurricanes. The low Atlantic hurricane activity so far during this current season is likely related to the mitigating effects of an emerging El Niño event.

"Hurricane activity since the mid-1990s is the highest in the historical record, but that only goes back a little more than a century and is most accurate since the advent of air travel and satellites in recent decades," said Mann. "It is therefore difficult to assess if the recent increase in hurricane activity is in fact unusual."

Mann, working with Jonathan D. Woodruff, assistant professor of geosciences, University of Massachusetts; Jeffrey P. Donnelly, associate scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Zhihua Zhang, postdoctoral assistant, Penn State, reconstructed the past 1,500 years of hurricanes using two independent methods. They report their results in the Aug. 13 issue of Nature.

One estimate of hurricane numbers is based on sediment deposited during landfall hurricanes. The researchers looked for coastal areas where water breached the normal boundaries of the beaches and overwashed into protected basins. Samples from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Gulf coast, the Southern U.S. coast, the mid-Atlantic coast and the southeastern New England coast were radiocarbon dated and combined to form a history of landfall hurricanes.

The other method used a previously developed statistical model for predicting hurricane activity based on climate variables. They applied the model to paleoclimate reconstructions of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature, the history of ENSO and another climate pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which is related to the year-to-year fluctuations of the jet stream. Warm waters are necessary for hurricane development, ENSO influences the wind shear and the NAO controls the path of storms, determining whether or not they encounter favorable conditions for development.

The researchers compared the results of both hurricane estimates, taking into account that the sediment measurements only record landfall hurricanes, but that the relationship between landfall hurricanes and storms that form and dissipate without ever hitting land can be estimated.

Both hurricane reconstructions indicate similar overall patterns and both indicate a high period of hurricane activity during the Medieval Climate Anomaly around AD 900 to 1100.

"We are at levels now that are about as high as anything we have seen in the past 1,000 years," said Mann.

The two estimates of hurricane numbers do not match identically. The researchers note that they do not know the exact force of a storm that will breach the beach area and deposit sediments. They are also aware that the relationship between landfalling hurricanes and those that remain at sea is not uniform through all time periods. However, they believe that key features like the medieval peak and subsequent lull are real and help to validate our current understanding of the factors governing long-term changes in Atlantic hurricane activity.

One thing the estimates show is that long periods of warm Atlantic ocean conditions produce greater Atlantic hurricane activity.

"It seems that the paleodata support the contention that greenhouse warming may increase the frequency of Atlantic tropical storms," said Mann. "It may not be just that the storms are stronger, but that there are there may be more of them as well."

The National Science Foundation and the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences supported this work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Harbingers Of Increased Atlantic Hurricane Activity Identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812143936.htm>.
Penn State. (2009, August 13). Harbingers Of Increased Atlantic Hurricane Activity Identified. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812143936.htm
Penn State. "Harbingers Of Increased Atlantic Hurricane Activity Identified." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812143936.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-Fuel Impala

3BL Media (Oct. 20, 2014) — Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet’s Bi-fuel Impala Video provided by 3BL
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

White Rhino's Death In Kenya Means Just 6 Are Left

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — Suni, a rare northern white rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, died Friday. This, as many media have pointed out, leaves people fearing extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Organic Fertilizer Helps Reforestation of Monarch Butterflies’ Winter Retreat

New Organic Fertilizer Helps Reforestation of Monarch Butterflies’ Winter Retreat

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 20, 2014) — Using an organic fertiliser, a conservationist from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), leads an award-winning project to reforest the sanctuary of monarch butterflies. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins