Volume 38, Issue 11 e2023PA004623
Research Article

More Frequent Hurricane Passage Across the Bahamian Archipelago During the Little Ice Age

T. S. Winkler

Corresponding Author

T. S. Winkler

Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Correspondence to:

T. S. Winkler,

[email protected]

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P. J. van Hengstum

P. J. van Hengstum

Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Galveston, TX, USA

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J. P. Donnelly

J. P. Donnelly

Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

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E. J. Wallace

E. J. Wallace

Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

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N. A. Albury

N. A. Albury

Coastal Cave Survey, West Branch, IA, USA

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N. D’Entremont

N. D’Entremont

Department of Geology and Geophysics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA

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A. D. Hawkes

A. D. Hawkes

Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, USA

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C. V. Maio

C. V. Maio

Department of Geosciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA

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J. Roberts

J. Roberts

Department of Geosciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, USA

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R. M. Sullivan

R. M. Sullivan

Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

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J. D. Woodruff

J. D. Woodruff

Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA

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First published: 21 November 2023

Abstract

The year 2020 Common Era (CE) experienced the highest number of named tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean since 1850 CE, but the short instrumental record makes it challenging to assess if this level of activity is statistically meaningful. Here, we present two near-annually resolved hurricane reconstructions from sediment archived in two blue holes located only 300 m apart on the northern margin of Grand Bahama. These two blue holes provide a replicated signal of hurricanes passing within a 50–100 km radius over the last 1,800 years, and the long-term reconstructions document multiple 50-to-150-year intervals when hurricane frequency was significantly higher than it has been over the last 100 years. These two records were first merged into a single stack, and then compiled with five other high-resolution reconstructions from across the Bahamian Archipelago to form a single 1500-year record of Bahamian hurricane frequency. This new Bahamian Compilation documents more hurricanes passing ∼75°W from 21°N to 26°N during the Little Ice Age (LIA; 1300–1850 CE) relative to the prior millennium and the last 170 years. The US Eastern Seaboard also experienced heightened hurricane activity during the LIA, whereas the Gulf of Mexico and Southern Caribbean were inactive. This suggests that despite a globally cooler climate, regional climate conditions during the LIA remained favorable for cyclogenesis and intensification along certain Atlantic hurricane pathways. Perhaps heightened Sahel rainfall during the LIA indicates an increase in African Easterly waves, which in turn possibly seeded more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Main Development Region.

Key Points

  • Two new paleo-hurricane reconstructions from Grand Bahama expand spatiotemporal scope of regional hurricane history

  • A new regional compilation of Bahamian hurricane activity suggests heightened regional hurricane frequency during the Little Ice Age

  • Regional hurricane increase may reflect increased cyclogenesis in the Atlantic Main Development Region driven by more African Easterly waves

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this study.

Data Availability Statement

All conventional radiocarbon dates can be found on the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information Paleoclimate database (Winkler et al., 2023; see “Chronology” tab) as well as in Tables S2 and S3 in Supporting Information S1. Conventional radiocarbon results were calibrated into years before present (cal yrs BP) using the IntCal20 calibration curve (Reimer et al., 2020). Radiocarbon dates post-dated 1950 CE were calibrated with the Northern Hemisphere Zone 2 data set (NHZ2) in CALIbomb (Reimer et al., 2004; Reimer & Reimer, 2022). Downcore sedimentary age-models with 95% confidence intervals were developed for both LDBH and TURT using Bayesian statistical approaches in the R package Bacon version 2.5.3 (Blaauw & Christen, 2011). The remaining sedimentological and reconstruction data developed for this study are available on the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information Paleoclimate database (Winkler et al., 2023). Within the Winkler et al., 2023 data repository for this study, the “Chronology” tab includes depths and uncalibrated radiocarbon results, correlated core depths of these dates, as well as slump depths used to develop the sedimentary age-models for the LDBH Composite and TURT. The “LDBH_Composite_Data” and “TURT_Data” tabs contain the median, mean, maximum, and minimum age-model projections from each core, all sediment texture and grain size data for the cores, and the event bed thresholds and identified event beds. The ”GBAM_Stack Data” Tab includes the median, maximum, and minimum age estimates along with core depth for TURT and LDBH Composite event bed, as well as the ages and depths assigned to the final GBAM Stack record that combines these two reconstructions. The “PDF_Compilation_Data” and “BHACstand6_Compilation_Data” tabs contain the site specific event-age data for all inputs into the BHACpdf5, NEcomp, FGoMcomp, and BHACstand6 hurricane reconstruction compilations.