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


  • 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 Nio-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. 2013 American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 16.472

author list (cited authors)

  • Toomey, M. R., Curry, W. B., Donnelly, J. P., & van Hengstum, P. J.

citation count

  • 42

complete list of authors

  • Toomey, Michael R||Curry, William B||Donnelly, Jeffrey P||van Hengstum, Peter J

publication date

  • January 1, 2013 11:11 AM