Hurricane frequency dropped during 17th century ‘Little Ice Age’ | Science News

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Hurricane frequency dropped during 17th century ‘Little Ice Age’

Shipwreck data tell tale of lull in heat-fueled ocean storms

By
3:00pm, March 7, 2016
Lord Ashburton

SAVAGE STORMS  The history of Spanish ships wrecked by Atlantic hurricanes suggests that hurricane activity stagnated between 1645 and 1715, a time when the sun dimmed. Hurricane-wrecked ships, such as the British Lord Ashburton (illustrated) sunk in 1857, litter the Atlantic Ocean seafloor.

Using records of ships wrecked by Atlantic hurricanes dating as far back as the days of Christopher Columbus, researchers have extended the hurricane record by hundreds of years. The work reveals that hurricane frequency plummeted 75 percent between 1645 and 1715, a time called the Maunder Minimum when the sun dimmed to its lowest recorded brightness.

“We didn’t go looking for the Maunder Minimum; it just popped out of the data,” says study coauthor Valerie Trouet, a paleoclimate scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The findings should help scientists better predict how hurricanes will behave under climate change, the researchers report in a paper to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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