‘Killer Hurricanes’ reconstructs the past to predict storms of the future | Science News

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‘Killer Hurricanes’ reconstructs the past to predict storms of the future

Historical, geologic records offer clues to tropical cyclones

By
8:00am, October 22, 2017
Jeff Donnelly

STORM IN THE SAND  A core of seafloor sediment collected off the coast of Jamaica by geologist Jeff Donnelly holds clues to prehistoric hurricanes.

In 1780, a powerful hurricane swept across the islands of the Caribbean, killing an estimated 22,000 people; 5,000 more died of starvation and disease in the aftermath. “Our planet is capable of unleashing extreme chaos,” begins the new NOVA documentary “Killer Hurricanes,” set to air November 1 on PBS.

To describe the human impact of such powerful tropical cyclones, the documentary primarily focuses on two storms: the Great Hurricane of 1780 and Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that slammed into Haiti and Cuba last October. Before the devastating 2017 Atlantic hurricane season (SN Online: 9/21/17), Matthew was considered the biggest Atlantic storm of the last decade.

Still, the film’s larger message remains timely: Studying the hurricanes of the past can offer insights into storms of the future

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