Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Historically unprecedented Northern Gulf of Mexico hurricane activity from 650 to 1250 CE

November 5, 2020

Hurricane Michael (2018) was the first Category 5 storm on record to make landfall on the Florida panhandle since at least 1851 CE (Common Era), and it resulted in the loss of 59 lives and $25 billion in damages across the southeastern U.S. This event placed a spotlight on recent intense (exceeding Category 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) hurricane landfalls, prompting questions about the natural range in variability of hurricane activity that the instrumental record is too short to address. Of particular interest is determining whether the frequency of recent intense hurricane landfalls in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is within or outside the natural range of intense hurricane activity prior to 1851 CE. In this study, we identify intense hurricane landfalls in northwest Florida during the past 2000 years based on coarse anomaly event detection from two coastal lacustrine sediment archives. We identified a historically unprecedented period of heightened storm activity common to four Florida panhandle localities from 650 to 1250 CE and a shift to a relatively quiescent storm climate in the GOM spanning the past six centuries. Our study provides long-term context for events like Hurricane Michael and suggests that the observational period 1851 CE to present may underrepresent the natural range in landfalling hurricane activity.

Publication Year 2020
Title Historically unprecedented Northern Gulf of Mexico hurricane activity from 650 to 1250 CE
DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-75874-0
Authors Jessica R. Rodysill, Jeffrey P. Donnelly, Richard Sullivan, Philip D. Lane, Michael Toomey, Jonathan D. Woodruff, Andrea D. Hawkes, Dana MacDonald, Nicole d’Entremont, Kelly McKeon, Elizabeth Wallace, Peter J. van Hengstum
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70216702
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Florence Bascom Geoscience Center