Michael Toomey


Michael is interested in reconstructing changes in hurricane activity (intensity, frequency, track) over the past 10,000 years. Much controversy has surrounded how hurricane activity will change in response to ongoing anthropogenic climate change and which factors have led to increased storminess in the geologic past. These disputes stem from a lack of available hurricane records that both extend back deep in time and are widely spatially distributed. Michael uses sedimentary archives from back-reef lagoons and carbonate bank margins to reconstruct records of hurricane activity beyond the period of modern observation.  Establishing longer records is essential for understanding patterns of storminess, their climatic drivers as well as the long-term impact of hurricanes on the landscape. Cyclone strikes are known to cause widespread defoliation, loss of branches, uprooting and tree mortality in coastal forests ultimately leading to increased fire. Michael integrates hurricane, charcoal and vegetation records to understand how hurricanes and fire work together to bring about landscape change.