Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hurricanes and New England

A study conducted by a team at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute revealed new information about the history of hurricanes striking the New England coast of North America. Using cores of sedimentary deposits, they studied the layers and were able to identify massive hurricane events hitting the area between the years of 250 and 1150 AD.

Hurricanes deposit a layer of sediment in inland areas that get buried and can remain undisturbed for thousands of years. By taking core samples it is possible to identify storms, date them and even determine how strong they were. In this way, the researchers were able to identify 23 events during that time span, each more powerful than anything that has occurred in recorded history. That is an average of one major storm every 40 years. These storms would all be classified as category 3 or 4 hurricanes today. To put that in perspective, there have been only three category 2 hurricanes in that area since the 1600s. The last was Hurricane Bob in 1991. There have been no storms stronger than category 2 to strike New England in that time period.

What has changed? Ocean temperature. Hurricanes require warm water to provide the massive amounts of energy they consume. Ocean temperature in this region of the Atlantic has been cooler for the last 850 years, but not anymore. Today, ocean temperatures are warmer than they were between 250 and 1150. Take a look at this plot:

Source: Climate Reanalyzer
The Atlantic, from the Caribbean Sea up past New England is much warmer than the baseline average. In fact, the North Atlantic is .51 degrees C warmer than average (numbers on bottom of image). The authors of the paper state today's ocean temperature is higher than during the study period.

Does this mean New England can expect a category 3 or 4 hurricane every 40 years on average? No, not by itself. There are many factors involved with the development of hurricanes and their paths. Without more detailed data we cannot reach an absolute conclusion that New England will get hit by big storms. But, it certainly means the risk is greater than we thought. 


  1. I am in the community, but then you are without any understanding of the community. The crap posted by people like yourself has no basis in science, just fiction from the few!

  2. I'm sure you would believe in the Agenda 21 stuff out there. Check it out: