THAT hurricanes are likely to become more powerful as the climate warms is not a matter much debated among researchers. A warmer climate will increase sea-surface temperatures relative to those of the adjacent atmosphere in some regions, leading to more evaporation, more clouds and stronger storms. You might expect this to be reflected in the geological record. But a study just published in Geology by Michael Toomey of the United States Geological Survey suggests, counter-intuitively, that the hurricanes which struck Florida during a cool period 12,000 years ago were more powerful than those during a subsequent time of warmth.
Dr Toomey’s findings stem from his analysis of sediment cores collected near the Dry Tortugas, islands off Florida’s coast. These contain strata laid down during the Younger Dryas, a time when the climate cooled, and also during the warmer years that followed it. The Younger Dryas is thought to have…Continue reading