Documenting hurricanes of the distant past may present warning for future

Dr. Matthew PerosDr Matthew Peros, Canada Research Chair in Climate and Environmental Change at Bishop’s University, has co-authored an important research publication in the Marine Geology scientific journal, studying the impact of hurricanes in the Maritimes in the distant past to better understand what impact hurricanes may have in the future if similar conditions occur.

“How hurricane activity will change with global warming is an urgent question facing many coastal regions, including those in the Canadian Maritimes. Our geological work provides a critical long-term context for hurricane impacts that would have been impossible to obtain from historical or instrumental records alone,” Dr Peros explains.

Studying sample cores from Robinson Lake in Nova Scotia, Dr Peros and his colleagues analyzed hurricane impacts for the past 800 years, in what constitutes the first paleotempestology research of this type conducted in Canada.

They found evidence that in the period from 1450-1700 c.e., the impacts of category 2 hurricanes such as Juan — which caused extensive damage in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in 2003 — were much more frequent than they are today in the Maritimes, with results suggesting they may have been up to three times more frequent during this interval. The reason for the increased frequency was higher ocean water temperature due to changes in ocean currents, and suggests hurricane frequency may increase to similar levels if ocean temperatures reach levels comparable to those of that era.

This research publication by Dr Peros was the fruit of collaboration between researchers from the University of Ottawa, Bishop’s University, McMaster University, as well as the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

“We are grateful for funding from the Canada Research Chairs program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation, notes Dr Peros. We also thank a number of students for help in the field and laboratory, as well as Mr. John Donahue for allowing us to collect samples on his property and Ms. Ann Schwartz for logistical support while in Nova Scotia.”

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