Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

LSU professor uncovers prehistoric hurricane activity

21.03.2007
Chances of Category 4 or 5 hurricanes hitting Gulf location are .03 percent annually

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita focused the international spotlight on the vulnerability of the U.S. coastline. Fears that a "super-hurricane" could make a direct hit on a major city and cause even more staggering losses of life, land and economy triggered an outpouring of studies directed at every facet of this ferocious weather phenomenon. Now, an LSU professor takes us one step closer to predicting the future by drilling holes into the past.

Kam-biu Liu, George William Barineau III Professor in LSU's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, is the pioneer of a relatively new field of study called paleotempestology, or the study of prehistoric hurricanes. Liu, a long-time resident of Louisiana, became even more interested in the subject during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when a national debate was sparked concerning hurricane intensity patterns and cycles.

"People were discussing the probability of a Category 5 hurricane making direct impact on New Orleans," said Liu. "That's tricky, because it's never actually happened in history. Even Katrina, though still extremely powerful, was only a Category 3 storm at landfall."

Currently, experts tend to agree that Atlantic hurricane activity fluctuates in cycles of approximately 20-30 years, alternating periods of high activity with periods of relative calm. But records of such events have only been kept for the last 150 years or so. What would happen, Liu wondered, if you looked back thousands of years? Would larger cycles present themselves?

How does a scientist study storms that happened during prehistoric times? "Basically, we worked under the assumption that the storm surge from these catastrophic hurricanes would have the capability to drive sand over beach barriers and into coastal lakes," said Liu. "This is called an overwash event. We believed that pulling sediment cores from coastal lakes and analyzing the sand layers might give us the information we needed." The same methodology can be used to find overwash sand layers in coastal marshes. Using radiocarbon analysis and other dating techniques, Liu and his research team worked to develop a chronology of prehistoric storms in order to analyze any emerging patterns or cycles.

This methodology has proven successful for the group. In an article printed in the March issue of American Scientist, the magazine of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, Liu states that evidence from the Gulf Coast drill sites shows that hurricanes of catastrophic magnitude directly hit each location only approximately 10 – 12 times in the past 3,800 years. "That means the chances of any particular Gulf location being hit by a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane in any given year is around 0.3 percent," said Liu.

After spending more that 15 years studying dozens of lakes and marshes along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, Liu and his students are moving on to a more tropical location. Liu was recently awarded more than $690,000 from the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, or IAI, for his new project titled "Paleotempestology of the Caribbean Region," which is slated to run for five years. He serves as the principal investigator for this international and multi-disciplinary project, which involves 12 other co-investigators from four different countries, including another contributor from LSU, Nina Lam, a professor in the Department of Environmental Studies.

Institutions participating in the study include:

the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,

Brown University,

Boston College,

the University of Tennessee,

the University of Toronto,

the Memorial University of Newfoundland,

the University of Costa Rica,

the Instituto Mexicano de Tecnologia del Agua, or IMTA, in Mexico.
Liu's Caribbean research has attracted funding not only from the IAI but also from the U.S. National Science Foundation. He and his students have already engaged in three separate expeditions to the Caribbean, stopping in Anguilla, Barbuda and the Bahamas, in the summer and fall of 2006 to core coastal salt ponds in order to gather paleohurricane evidence for analysis. He has recently returned from a coring trip to the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, where he and his co-workers studied how Hurricane Mitch, a catastrophic hurricane that killed more than 12,000 people in Honduras and Nicaragua in 1998, impacted the local communities and environment. His students have also conducted coring fieldwork in Barbados, Nicaragua and Belize during the past year. With many future trips to the Caribbean in the planning stages, they hope to reproduce a prehistoric hurricane analysis as successful as their Gulf Coast study.

Kam-biu Liu | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lsu.edu
http://www.sce.lsu.edu/faculty/liu.htm

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>