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Seven Millennia of Hurricane Activity along the Coast of Belize

McCloskey, T.A. and Liu, K.-b. 2012. A 7000 year record of paleohurricane activity from a coastal wetland in Belize. The Holocene 23: 278-291.
In the words of McCloskey and Liu (2012), "sedimentary paleotempestological studies have documented that tropical cyclone activity levels in the North Atlantic have been characterized by significant fluctuations since at least the mid-Holocene, with activity regimes typically lasting from several centuries to more than 2000 years," based on activity-level estimates obtained from "site-specific hurricane strike histories derived from proxy records of overwash events attributed to land-falling major hurricanes."

In an effort to study this topic futher, while working with a composite sedimentary record derived from seven cores they extracted from a brackish backbarrier lake and a single core from a palmetto swamp of coastal Belize, Central America - which provide evidence of both tropical cyclone-generated storm surges and large precipitation events - McCloskey and Liu developed a 7000-year composite record of local hurricane activity. And what did they learn?

The two U.S. researchers say the record they developed "displays clear evidence of continuous oscillation between distinctly different activity regimes," with "individual regimes generally lasting from several centuries to 1200 years," and with "active and quiet periods each covering about 50% of the record." In addition, they say that "this activity pattern is markedly different from those determined from landfall records from the northern Gulf of Mexico and the northeastern Caribbean/Atlantic coast of the USA."

In light of these diverse findings, McCloskey and Liu conclude that (1) "both the climatic conditions favoring tropical cyclones and the frequency of landfall for major hurricanes have exhibited multi-centennial variability over the late Holocene," and that (2) "the timing of hyperactive periods varies regionally across the North Atlantic." Hence, their work would appear to suggest that there are no hard-and-fast rules about how climate change may impact the development of future storms in these regions.

Archived 26 June 2013