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A Two Thousand Year Record of Hurricane Activity in the Florida Panhandle

Paper Reviewed
Rodysill, J.R., Donnelly, J.P., Sullivan, R., Lane, P.D., Toomey, M., Woodruff, J.D., Hawkes, A.D., MacDonald, D., d'Entremont, N., McKeon, K., Wallace, E. and van Hengstum, P.J. 2020. Historically unprecedented northern Gulf of Mexico hurricane activity from 650 to 1250 CE. Scientific Reports 10:19092,

Writing as background for their study, Rodysill et al. (2020) note that Hurricane Michael in 2018 was "the first Category 5 storm on record to make landfall on the Florida panhandle since at least 1851 CE (Common Era)," which "placed a spotlight on recent intense (exceeding Category 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) hurricane landfalls, prompting questions about the natural range of variability of hurricane activity that the instrumental record is too short to address." And so it was that this team of twelve researchers set out to produce and investigate a multi-millennial record of historic hurricane landfall activity on the Florida panhandle.

The new record involved analyzing sediment deposits from cores taken at two locations: Basin Bayou (30.49°N, 86.25°W) and Shotgun Pond (29.93°N, 84.36°W), the latter of which is approximately 200 km southeast of Basin Bayou. Hurricane-related storm deposits were identified in the sediment cores at each location using a combination of sieved sand fractions, geochemical analyses and foraminifera identification, producing a record of tropical cyclone activity over the past 2000 years.

And what did this history reveal?

In the words of the authors "tropical cyclone activity varies substantially at the centennial timescale at both sites." However they note "the period of greatest hurricane activity in both records occurred over multiple centuries centered on ~ 1000 CE," during which time hurricane events were about twice as frequent as that observed during the more recent historical period (1851-present). Consequently, Rodysill et al. conclude "the observation period 1851 CE to present does not represent the full range of natural variability in Gulf of Mexico hurricane activity and provides an incomplete baseline for determining whether landfalls of intense storms like Hurricane Michael are unusual in the contest of past storm activity." Given as much, climate alarmists who are quick to assert that current hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico is caused (or made worse) by anthropogenic global warming may want to reconsider their claims based upon this new analysis.

Posted 21 October 2020