Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM
SPATIAL VARIABILITY IN 400 YEARS OF EASTERN CARIBBEAN HURRICANE ACTIVITY AS EVIDENCED FROM NEWLY COMPILED HISTORICAL RECORDS
Tropical systems (tropical wave – hurricane) cause significant damage and loss to coastal infrastructures and human life on a yearly basis. Despite substantial research, debate still exists regarding the potential impact of climate change on hurricane frequency and intensity. Long-term records of hurricane activity from a range of proxies potentially provide insight into the complex relationship between global climate and hurricane activity, but proxies are frequently limited in either temporal scale or storm resolution. In addition, the ability of these proxies to accurately record climate-driven trends in hurricane activity in the Eastern Caribbean has, in the past, only been reliably verified using a relatively short historical database (~50 years). In the process of developing a new, high-resolution geologic proxy for hurricane activity, we compiled a written history of hurricane activity for the Eastern Caribbean over the last 400 years based on a wide range of local, historical sources for the regions of Puerto Rico, Vieques, St. Croix and Antigua. These data also yielded a new chronological marker: black carbon formed during forest fires, critical for developing robust age models for geologic proxies. The historical records indicate significant spatial variability in the likelihood of a hurricane impacting a specific region in a given year, and further suggest that high/low hurricane activity at one site is not indicative of basin-wide hurricane activity. Predictions regarding the impact of climate change on future hurricane activity based on proxies obtained at only a few sites are thus not necessarily applicable to other locations, limiting their usefulness for future coastal planning.