Climate Science

A Hurricane History

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Science  26 Sep 2008:
Vol. 321, Issue 5897, pp. 1743
DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5897.1743b

One problem in assessing whether recent climate change has significantly influenced either the strength or frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms is that in general, these factors have been measured systematically only recently. Thus, establishing a reliable baseline to compare with present trends has been difficult. In the Lesser Antilles—one of the first areas settled heavily in the New World, and a focus of early trade—British ships' logs, newspaper accounts, official colonial correspondence, and other sources provide a variety of data over the past 300 years or so. Chenoweth and Divine used these sources to derive a historical record of hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions in this region, which is along the main track of storms that eventually develop and hit the United States and Mexico. The authors identified 550 tropical storms and hurricanes passing through these islands, about half of which were not previously detected, including in more recent records. Overall, there seems to be no discernable trend in activity since 1690, though the period from 1968 to 1977 had notably few storms.— BH

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst. 9, 10.1029/2008GC002066 (2008).

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