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The study of past tropical cyclone activity by means of geological proxies and/or historical documentary records is known as paleotempestology. This scientific discipline has become prominent over the course of the last decade partially in response to the recent increase in tropical cyclone count and intensity in the North Atlantic basin witnessed since 1995. The field has also developed due to the socioeconomic impacts of tropical cyclones particularly along vulnerable coastal regions. During the twenty-five years prior to the start of the most recent increase in hurricane activity, major (Category 3, 4, or 5) hurricanes were less frequent than in previous decades. Yet, property losses from the hurricanes that did make landfall in the United States increased during this period due to development in damage prone areas (NOAA Paleoclimatology Program, 2000). Many researchers hence stress the importance of identifying historical tropical cyclones to understand long term trends in tropical cyclone climatology and to determine the influence of anthropogenic global warming on tropical cyclone activity and intensity. The North Atlantic Hurricane Database (HURDAT) has been one of the authoritative sources for examining North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity trends since 1850. However, some of the deadliest known hurricanes and potentially most active seasons in the North Atlantic basin occurred prior to the beginning of the HURDAT record (Table 1), including the Great Hurricane of 1780 that killed an estimated 22,000 people and was one of eight known tropical cyclones during that season. This chapter will provide a brief overview of some paleotempestology techniques and illustrate a methodology for identifying and reconstructing historical North Atlantic tropical cyclone tracks in the pre-HURDAT era employing a Geographic Information System (GIS) and utilizing readily accessible archival data.
Modern Climatology, whole system, historical statistics, variability, atmosphere, prediction
Climate | Earth Sciences