Frequency of strong Florida hurricanes decreased in last 600 years

The next time some alarmist caterwauls about hurricanes becoming worse and more frequent due to global warming, show them this study.

Mullet Pond: a nearly circular, 200-m-diameter cover-collapse sinkhole located on Bald Point near Apalachee Bay, Florida from which the paleo data on hurricane frequency was obtained. Image: Google Earth

Noting that “the brief observational record is inadequate for characterizing natural variability in hurricane activity occurring on longer than multi-decadal timescales,” Lane et al. (2011) sought a means of characterizing hurricane activity prior to the period of modern measurement and historical record keeping, due to the fact that “the manner in which tropical cyclone activity and climate interact has critical implications for society and is not well understood.”

Specifically, Lane et al. developed a 4500-year record of intense hurricane-induced storm surges based on data obtained from “a nearly circular, 200-m-diameter cover-collapse sinkhole (Mullet Pond: 29°55.520′N, 84°20.275′W) that is located on Bald Point near Apalachee Bay, Florida, USA, where (1) “recent deposition of sand layers in the upper sediments of the pond was found to be contemporaneous with significant, historic storm surges at the site modeled using SLOSH and the Best Track, post-1851 AD dataset,” where (2) “paleohurricane deposits were identified by sand content and dated using radiocarbon-based age models,” and where (3) “marine-indicative foraminifera, some originating at least 5 km offshore, were present in several modern and ancient storm deposits.”

The four researchers’ reconstructed record of intense hurricanes revealed that the frequency of these “high-magnitude” events “peaked near 6 storms per century between 2800 and 2300 years ago.” Thereafter, it suggests that they were “relatively rare” with “about 0-3 storms per century occurring between 1900 and 1600 years ago,” after which they state that these super-storms exhibited a marked decline, which “began around 600 years ago” and has persisted through the present with “below average frequency over the last 150 years when compared to the preceding five millennia.”

It is instructive to note that over the past century and a half of ever-increasing fossil fuel utilization and atmospheric CO2 buildup, the frequency of the most intense category of hurricanes in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico has been lower than it was over the prior five millennia, which speaks volumes about the climate-alarmist claim that continued anthropogenic CO2 emissions will lead to more frequent super cyclones and hurricanes.

Source: NIPCC

http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/originals/eye_of_the_storm.html

From CO2 Science.org:

A High-Intensity Hurricane Record Preserved in a Florida Sinkhole


Reference
Lane, P., Donnelly, J.P., Woodruff, J.D. and Hawkes, A.D. 2011. A decadally-resolved paleohurricane record archived in the late Holocene sediments of a Florida sinkhole. Marine Geology 287: 14-30.

Background
Noting that “the brief observational record is inadequate for characterizing natural variability in hurricane activity occurring on longer than multi-decadal timescales,” the authors sought a means of characterizing hurricane activity prior to the period of modern measurement and historical record keeping, due to the fact that “the manner in which tropical cyclone activity and climate interact has critical implications for society and is not well understood.”

What was done
Lane et al. developed a 4500-year record of intense hurricane-induced storm surges based on data obtained from “a nearly circular, 200-m-diameter cover-collapse sinkhole (Mullet Pond: 29°55.520’N, 84°20.275’W) that is located on Bald Point near Apalachee Bay, Florida, USA, where (1) “recent deposition of sand layers in the upper sediments of the pond was found to be contemporaneous with significant, historic storm surges at the site modeled using SLOSH and the Best Track, post-1851 AD dataset,” where (2) “paleohurricane deposits were identified by sand content and dated using radiocarbon-based age models,” and where (3) “marine-indicative foraminifera, some originating at least 5 km offshore, were present in several modern and ancient storm deposits.”

What was learned
The four researchers’ reconstructed record of intense hurricanes revealed that the frequency of these “high-magnitude” events “peaked near 6 storms per century between 2800 and 2300 years ago.” Thereafter, it suggests that they were “relatively rare” with “about 0-3 storms per century occurring between 1900 and 1600 years ago,” after which they state that these super-storms exhibited a marked decline, which “began around 600 years ago” and has persisted through the present with “below average frequency over the last 150 years when compared to the preceding five millennia.”

What it means
It is instructive to note that over the past century and a half of ever-increasing fossil fuel utilization and atmospheric CO2 buildup, the frequency of the most intense category of hurricanes in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico has been lower than it was over the prior five millennia, which speaks volumes about the climate-alarmist claim that continued anthropogenic CO2 emissions will lead to more frequent super cyclones and hurricanes.

Full paper at Science Direct here (paywall)

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27 thoughts on “Frequency of strong Florida hurricanes decreased in last 600 years

  1. Excellent work. However, I can see the alarmists making up excuses now:
    a) “Climate uncertainty spreads storms out”
    b) “Biodiversity requires severe storms, ergo, its our fault.”
    c) “This is a natural cycle that is being overridden by recent man-made forcings.”

  2. you can’t fool me: this just means all the big storms made land fall somewhere else…

    the science is settled.

  3. This work appears important but after a few minutes consideration I can think of several other factors which could influence sediment deposition in the sinkhole:
    – sea level,
    – width of strip of land between sink hole and sea,
    – vegetation around the sinkhole,
    – the construction of the coastal road and other roads around the sinkhole,
    – the construction of houses,
    – glacial isostatic adjustment (Florida is report to be sinking).
    I have not read the original paper and it may be that the authors have considered all these (and other factors). If not, they had better start preparing answers to them.

  4. When the sink hole was created, it was presumably quite deep and has filled up over the years. The amount of sand that could be washed into it with each event has therefore been reduced. I hope this was taken into account when they did their calculations.

  5. When my Wife and I vacationed on the Atlantic Side of Florida, we stopped at a Historical marker. It told the story of a Spanish shipwreck in the late 1500’s early 1600’s (I forget the exact date). But the survivors that made it ashore had a very hard time surviving because there were no Indian’s to help them. All the Indians had moved inland as it was the hurricane season and they abandoned coastal areas for the season

  6. redc1c4 says:
    January 26, 2012 at 1:01 am
    “you can’t fool me: this just means all the big storms made land fall somewhere else…”

    Kind of like Briffa using one tree.

  7. As a board-certified geologist I am surprised to read Ron Manley’s assertion that “Florida is report(ed) to be sinking”. By geological observation, this is an unsupported claim. In fact, a recent paper by Adams et. al. posits that the Central Ridge area is actually rising slightly due to isostatic response to karstification (glaciation is not a factor). The rest of Manley’s statements are similarly insubstantial.

  8. Not interested in posts discussing papers that are paywalled, unless we can have free access to the full paper somewhere else.

  9. In order to hurricane/storm to be born it needs, as everybody knows, a certain amount of energy saved in the sea as heat, thus the colder the sea the less hurricanes, which serve to transfer that heat to the atmosphere; and as they state that these super-storms exhibited a marked decline, which “began around 600 years ago” and has persisted through the present with “below average frequency over the last 150 years when compared to the preceding five millennia.”
    It means, that seas has been cooling in a process which “began around 600 years ago”.
    Is it so, compared with other researches?

  10. As others have stated, this report only shows that major storms appear to have decreased in frequency at THIS SPOT. This study needs to be repeated at other sufficiently-deep ponds/lakes/sinkholes at other locations along the hurricane-prone coast in order to draw significant conclusions.

  11. Jason H says:
    January 26, 2012 at 7:00 am

    “…This study needs to be repeated at other sufficiently-deep ponds/lakes/sinkholes at other locations along the hurricane-prone coast in order to draw significant conclusions.”

    Which is probably why they compared the sequence to other paleohurricane records in figure 9.

    Specifically Vieques PR, Alder Island NY, Western Lake FL, Mattapoisett MA.

    http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/woodruff/Publications_files/Lane_et_al_MarGeo2011.pdf

  12. OT
    “Map-makers admit Greenland gaffe
    Now the Scottish map-makers responsible for the disappearance of 115,830 square miles of polar ice have admitted publicly they were wrong.
    As an act of contrition, The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World cartographers have produced a new map which restores Greenland’s ice cover.
    The latest atlas, which was published in September, showed a reduction in ice cover compared with the previous edition from four years ago.
    Accompanying publicity material declared the change represented “concrete evidence” of the effects of global warming, stating: “For the first time the new edition has had to erase 15 per cent of Greenland’s permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the UK and Ireland ‘green’ and ice-free.””

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/odd/map_makers_admit_greenland_gaffe_1_2077854

  13. ThePowerofX says:

    “In other words, this study tells us very little about what is happening now, and absolutely nothing about the future.”

    Actually… it tells quite a bit. Modern data is of almost not use unless you have a frame of reference to compare it to. This paper (and others like it) provide that frame of reference.

    A long time ago in a place far far away… I had to take a measurement of a voltage in a “floating deck modulator” that was supposed to read pretty close to 450 VDC. This was a required maintenance check. The reference was the chassis. One important aspect of taking that measurement, was to realize that the chassis floated at 10,000 Volts in relation to everything else.

    A rather important tidbit of information if you are going to take this measurement without killing yourself.

    References make things much more clearer.

  14. Could the decrease be a proxy for increased Sahel dust, which is a proxy for an expanding Sahara, which is a proxy for the onset of a grave cold period?

  15. Someone just HAS to play devil’s advocate here. How much vaildity is there when a paleo study uses data from only one location to create a time series? I hate it when they try this with ice cores, and I hate it when they do it here. I call total BS.

  16. Tom in Florida says:
    January 26, 2012 at 4:39 am

    Gary Swift says:
    January 26, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, come on. They told you the limitations of the data. It’s up to you to judge the results. These are interesting preliminary results.

    On the other hand, did they tell you only 35 trees (if memory serves) from Yamal selected from hundreds were used to make the hockey stick?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/01/mirror-posting-yad06-the-most-influential-tree-in-the-world/

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/10/01/response-from-briffa-on-the-yamal-tree-ring-affair-plus-rebuttal/

  17. that the frequency of these “high-magnitude” events “peaked near 6 storms per century between 2800 and 2300 years ago.”
    ———-
    So if this storm record is matched to other paleo records, say CO2 or temperature, is there any sign of correlation?

    Anyhow it seems to me that it is not possible to draw reliable conclusions about this record in relation to the last 150 years of AGW, since we have not seen much warming so far and the main effects are towards the end of that period.

    Furthermore this study is about conditions at a fixed location and tells nothing about global or ocean basin totals. This is relevant because persistent weather patterns can shift to different latitudes.

    Furthermore the relations put forward between AGW and storm frequency are confusing. For example the GCM models show a reduced frequency of tropical cyclones.

    For this reason I expect to see all kinds of superficial blogger rants as the blind men grapple with the elephant and lots of apples to oranges comparisons are made.

  18. Yes, but the insurance companies know the real convenient truth:

    “Mass. AG Calls Proposed Homeowners Premium Hike ‘Illegally Excessive’

    By Young Ha | January 25, 2012

    The insurance industry is seeking the commissioner’s permission to raise rates for the FAIR Plan by an average of 7.4 percent across the state and by 10 percent in New Bedford, Fall River, Quincy, Lawrence, Brockton, Lynn, and parts of Boston. Homeowners on Cape Cod face a 6.7 percent rate hike under the industry proposal…

    The attorney general also argued that the proposed rate hike is largely based on “undisclosed hurricane models” that insurers claim predict the likelihood and damage of a major hurricane hitting Massachusetts…”

    http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2012/01/25/232738.htm

  19. You emphasized the important part. “undisclosed hurricane models”

    One thing you can alway be sure of, if it’s “undisclosed” it means ‘give us more money and we aren’t going to justify why’

    People keep building really expensive stuff on sand bars, jetties and keys, and expect you and I to pay for it when the inevitable storm comes along. New Jersey charges beach fees just to stand on the damned beach. All of Florida is penalized with higher insurance rates because “special people” have to build on barrier islands and are totally aghast that some storm happens along and destroys it.

    You would think that the potential financial loss of such an endeavor would curtail that sort of behavior. Nope. Federal, State and Local governments along with insurance agencies subsidize non logical behavior and those of us with the common sense to not build on temporary land have to foot the bill.

    All beaches and barrier islands are in constant motion and subject to removal by any storm that happens to have the right strength.

    Meanwhile… about that “undisclosed hurricane models”, this is a plot of the average wind speeds from the six hour reports in NOAA’s hurdat file. It would be really interesting to see how it squares with this undisclosed model.

  20. I am the lead author of this study, and I think a couple of key points in the paper have been neglected here.

    While the record indicates that intense hurricanes were rare at this location over the last 150 years, the period for which instrumental observations are available, that does not mean that the last few decades have not been exceptionally active in terms of Atlantic hurricanes. The record cannot speak to this possibility.

    Intense hurricanes are rare at any particular location, even at points along the Gulf Coast. For this reason, a change in overall Atlantic hurricane activity cannot be detected at a particular location unless it persists for many decades or centuries. What this study says is that the last 150 years have been unusually calm compared to most other 150-year periods over the last five millennia. This does not mean that the last, say, 30 years have not exhibited elevated Atlantic-wide hurricane activity when compared to other 30-year periods over the same interval. We cannot address this issue with our record—a fact made clear in the original article.

    Then why does this study matter?

    Our findings indicate that the climate system, on its own, can create both extremely active and inactive storm regimes that persist for hundreds to thousands of years. These changes have occurred in response to the relatively modest variations in tropical climate over the last few millennia. Hurricane climate, therefore, is not stable on the timescales discussed in this study and understanding how tropical cyclone activity has evolved with climate over the last few millennia may provide insight into how storms may change in response to present and future climates (should they be different from that of the last 150 years).

    This study has been mischaracterized here. It is important not to overly invest in an outcome but rather to learn from the information that is available. This study simply adds to that information.

    [Thank you. Robt]

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