Phil Lane (a graduate student in Geology and Geophysics) is working with Jeff Donnelly to develop records of Atlantic hurricane activity going back as far as 5,000 years. These records are based on sediment cores extracted from coastal ponds and marshes that contain signatures of repeated inundation from hurricane storm surges. His field sites are located along Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts and Apalachee Bay, Florida and are part of a sparse but growing network of paleohurricane records.
Over the last decade, much research has focused on using historic records and numerical modeling of storm activity to establish linkages between hurricanes and climate. This body of work is aimed partly at identifying the natural variability that exists in hurricane activity on inter-annual to multi-decadal timescales. The uncertain impact of earth’s warming climate on the world’s deadliest and costliest storms has also motivated this research. However, historic hurricane records of varying quality extend back only to the mid-19th century making long-term variability and trends difficult to detect. Paleohurricane archives compliment these existing records by documenting storms that occurred centuries to millennia in the past. These ancient storm records have demonstrated that storm activity also varies on much longer centennial to millennial timescales and that storm frequency and severity are affected strongly by factors other than ocean temperature.