Caribbean cyclone activity: an annually-resolved Common Era record


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Scientific Reports

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Tropical cyclones (TC) represent a substantial threat to life and property for Caribbean and adjacent populations. The prospective increase of TC magnitudes, expressed in the 15th chapter of the IPCC AR5 report, entails a rising probability of ecological and social disasters, which were tragically exemplifed by several severe Caribbean TC strikes during the past 20 years. Modern IPCC-grade climate models, however, still lack the required spatial and temporal resolution to accurately consider the underlying boundary conditions that modulate long-time TC patterns beyond the Instrumental Era. It is thus necessary to provide a synoptic mechanistic understanding regarding the origin of such long-time patterns, in order to predict reliable changes of TC magnitude and frequency under future climate scenarios. Caribbean TC records are still rare and often lack the necessary continuity and resolution to overcome these limitations. Here, we report on an annually-resolved sedimentary archive from the bottom of the Great Blue Hole (Lighthouse Reef, Belize). The TC recorden compasses 1885 years and extends all existing site-specifc TC archives both in terms of resolution and duration. We identifed a likely connection between long-term TC patterns and climate phenomena responses to Common Era climate variations and ofer a conceptual and comparative view considering several involved tropospheric and oceanographic control mechanisms such as the El-Niño-Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. These basin-scaled climate modes exercise internal control on TC activity by modulating the thermodynamic environment (sea-surface temperature and vertical wind shear stress dynamics) for enhanced/suppressed TC formation both on millennial (primary) and multi-decadal (secondary) time scales. We interpret the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) as an important time interval of the Common Era record and suspect that the southward migration of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) caused, in combination with extensive hydro-climate changes, a shift in the tropical Atlantic TC regime. The TC activity in the south-western Caribbean changed in general from a stable and less active stage (100–900 CE) to a more active and variable state (1,100 CE-modern).


Natural hazards, Palaeoceanography, Palaeoclimate, Physical oceanography

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