Spanish Shipwreck, Tree-Ring Records Show Caribbean Hurricanes’ Past Extent

By on April 11, 2016

Hurricane Katrina. (Credit: NOAA)

Records of Spanish shipwrecks combined with tree-ring records show the period 1645 to 1715 had the fewest Caribbean hurricanes since 1500, according to new University of Arizona-led research. The study is the first to use shipwrecks as a proxy for hurricane activity.

The researchers found a 75 percent reduction in the number of Caribbean hurricanes from 1645 to 1715, a time with little sunspot activity and cool temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. By extending the record of Caribbean hurricanes, scientists say they are improving the overall understanding of hurricane variability.

Although global climate models indicate hurricanes will be more intense as the climate warms, researchers say those models are not yet good at making regional predictions. Learning more about how hurricanes correlate with climate for the past 500 years may lead to better regional predictions of hurricanes.

Top image: Hurricane Katrina. (Credit: NOAA)

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