Reconstructing 7000 years of North Atlantic hurricane variability using deep-sea sediment cores from the western Great Bahama Bank

Thumbnail Image
Toomey, Michael R.
Curry, William B.
Donnelly, Jeffrey P.
van Hengstum, Peter J.
Alternative Title
Date Created
Related Materials
Replaced By
Carbonate banks
Available overwash records from coastal barrier systems document significant variability in North Atlantic hurricane activity during the late Holocene. The same climate forcings that may have controlled cyclone activity over this interval (e.g., the West African Monsoon, El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO)) show abrupt changes around 6000 yrs B.P., but most coastal sedimentary records do not span this time period. Establishing longer records is essential for understanding mid-Holocene patterns of storminess and their climatic drivers, which will lead to better forecasting of how climate change over the next century may affect tropical cyclone frequency and intensity. Storms are thought to be an important mechanism for transporting coarse sediment from shallow carbonate platforms to the deep-sea, and bank-edge sediments may offer an unexplored archive of long-term hurricane activity. Here, we develop this new approach, reconstructing more than 7000 years of North Atlantic hurricane variability using coarse-grained deposits in sediment cores from the leeward margin of the Great Bahama Bank. High energy event layers within the resulting archive are (1) broadly correlated throughout an offbank transect of multi-cores, (2) closely matched with historic hurricane events, and (3) synchronous with previous intervals of heightened North Atlantic hurricane activity in overwash reconstructions from Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Bahamas. Lower storm frequency prior to 4400 yrs B.P. in our records suggests that precession and increased NH summer insolation may have greatly limited hurricane potential intensity, outweighing weakened ENSO and a stronger West African Monsoon—factors thought to be favorable for hurricane development.
Author Posting. © American Geophysical Union, 2013. This article is posted here by permission of American Geophysical Union for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Paleoceanography 28 (2013): 31–41, doi:10.1002/palo.20012.
Embargo Date
Paleoceanography 28 (2013): 31–41
Cruise ID
Cruise DOI
Vessel Name