Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Geography, Environment and Planning

Major Professor

Jennifer Collins, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cary Mock, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Welford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joni Downs Firat, Ph.D.


Cuba, GIS, paleotempestology, Tampa Bay, tropical cyclones


Analyzing past tropical cyclone activity enables researchers to recognize patterns of hurricane variability, estimate hurricane return periods, and assess local risk to future storms. This paleotempestology study used original primary data to make the historical record as comprehensive and accurate as possible for three major hurricanes: October 1844, October 1846, and September 1848. This thesis presents the reconstructed storm tracks, assesses the societal impacts, and evaluates the storm intensity of these three major hurricanes for the eastern U.S. and Cuba. The data utilized in this study include ship logbooks, newspapers, diaries, and instrumental meteorological records. A geographic information system (GIS) was used to construct the storm tracks of all three hurricanes and to map synoptic temperature data for the October 1846 and September 1848 storms. The estimated intensity of the tropical cyclones throughout their life cycle was included in the storm tracks, and intensity upon landfall was categorized based on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The results show that the October 1844 storm made landfall in western Cuba as a category 4 hurricane, causing substantial damages to Matanzas and the surrounding area. The October 1846 hurricane struck western Cuba with the intensity of a category 5 hurricane, producing devastating impacts in Havana before transitioning to an extratropical cyclone as it traveled northward across the eastern United States. The September 1848 storm originated in the western Gulf of Mexico and made landfall near Tampa Bay, Florida as a category 4 hurricane. This detailed investigation of individual historical hurricanes is an important step towards a more complete understanding of local-level hurricane risk as well as basin-wide hurricane variability.