Sea floor evidence from millennia of Atlantic storms tells its own story

Posted: November 30, 2022 by oldbrew in Analysis, History, Natural Variation, waves, wind

Hurricane Dorian

If ‘evidence indicates that the Atlantic has experienced even stormier periods in the past than we’ve seen in recent years’, as stated below, then natural variation can easily account for whatever happened in those recent years. No need to invoke changes to the level of any minor trace gases to explain the data.
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If you look back at the history of Atlantic hurricanes since the late 1800s, it might seem hurricane frequency is on the rise, says The Conversation (via

The year 2020 had the most tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, with 31, and 2021 had the third-highest, after 2005. The past decade saw five of the six most destructive Atlantic hurricanes in modern history. [Talkshop comment – define ‘destructive’, money-based comparisons tell us nothing]

Then a year like 2022 comes along, with no major hurricane landfalls until Fiona and Ian struck in late September.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, has had eight hurricanes and 14 named storms. It’s a reminder that small sample sizes can be misleading when assessing trends in hurricane behavior.

There is so much natural variability in hurricane behavior year to year and even decade to decade that we need to look much further back in time for the real trends to come clear.

Fortunately, hurricanes leave behind telltale evidence that goes back millennia.

Two thousand years of this evidence indicates that the Atlantic has experienced even stormier periods in the past than we’ve seen in recent years. That’s not good news.

It tells coastal oceanographers like me that we may be significantly underestimating the threat hurricanes pose to Caribbean islands and the North American coast in the future.

The natural records hurricanes leave behind

When a hurricane nears land, its winds whip up powerful waves and currents that can sweep coarse sands and gravel into marshes and deep coastal ponds, sinkholes and lagoons.

Under normal conditions, fine sand and organic matter like leaves and seeds fall into these areas and settle to the bottom. So when coarse sand and gravel wash in, a distinct layer is left behind.

Imagine cutting through a layer cake—you can see each layer of frosting. Scientists can see the same effect by plunging a long tube into the bottom of these coastal marshes and ponds and pulling up several meters of sediment in what’s known as a sediment core.

By studying the layers in sediment, we can see when coarse sand appeared, suggesting an extreme coastal flood from a hurricane.

With these sediment cores, we have been able to document evidence of Atlantic hurricane activity over thousands of years.

Full article here.

  1. […] Sea floor evidence from millennia of Atlantic storms tells its own story — Tallbloke’s Talks… […]

  2. There is no evidence that hurricanes are getting more frequent or stronger.

    This is what NOAA say:

    “There is no strong evidence of century-scale increasing trends in U.S. landfalling hurricanes or major hurricanes, Similarly for Atlantic basin-wide hurricanes (after adjusting for observing capabilities), there is not strong evidence for an increase since the late 1800s in hurricanes, major hurricanes, or the proportion of hurricanes that reach major hurricane intensity.”

    The Conversation is making the classic error of comparing the number of “recorded” storms.

  3. Kip Hansen says:

    TB ==> This study only covers hurricanes/storms at “Caribbean islands and the North American coast”. doesn’t really tells us that much about comparisons with the modern “Named Storms” metric.

  4. In 1800 there were many storms that did not get reported, we did not have satellites looking from space to identify every storm.

    [reply] true, but they analysed sediments as well as reports

  5. Our detailed records cover a small time span in a thousand year cycle and does not cover even a one cycle and none of the warmer cycles before now. This is the coldest warm period in the last ten thousand years, This is the coldest warm time in fifty million years. As to upper temperatures, we have a lot of margin, much warmer time periods were the best of times in human history.

  6. oldbrew says:

    From the article:
    The compiled Bahamian records document substantially higher hurricane frequency in the northern Caribbean during the Little Ice Age, around 1300 to 1850, than in the past 100 years. [bold added]

    Yes, when the pole-equator temperature gradient was greater than now. But higher frequency woudn’t necessarily affect all parts equally…

    The Little Ice Age active interval observed in most Bahamian records coincides with increased hurricane strikes along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard from 1500 to 1670, but at the same time it was a quieter period in the Gulf of Mexico, central Bahamas and southern Caribbean.

    Looks like areas closer to the pole took the brunt of those strikes.

  7. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .

  8. oldbrew says:


    Climate Expert: The 2022 Seasonal Hurricane Forecast Was A Bust
    – – –
    Got the data, the computers, the brains, etc. – but natural variations were the big winner.

    PS … even the author himself fell into the trap…

    ‘There are more than 2x the median landfalls during La Niña than in El Niño and 16x the median damage — this relationship holds for the basin overall as well.

    We are currently in a La Niña phase, so watch out!’

  9. Paleotempestology is still a young science. Researchers are still trying to figure out the distribution of ancient hurricanes. Beach sands are one method. Stalactite analysis is another that can be correlated with the sand deposit data.

  10. Phoenix44 says:

    This is completely confused. If it’s been stormier before than it’s been whatever causes increased storminess before. We know that wasn’t man-made CO2 so we know man-made CO2 is not required for the increased storminess and its causes. What therefore is he worried about?

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