The research was carried out by Professor Peter Mumby from The University of Queensland Global Change Institute and School of Biological Sciences, Professor David Stephenson and Dr Renato Vitolo (Willis Research Fellow) at the University of Exeter's Exeter Climate Systems research centre.
Tropical cyclones and hurricanes have a massive economic, social and ecological impact, and models of their occurrence influence many planning activities from setting insurance premiums to conservation planning.
Understanding how the frequency of hurricanes varies is important for the people that experience them and the ecosystems that are impacted by hurricanes.
The findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA map the variability in hurricanes throughout the Americas using a 100-year historical record of hurricane tracks.
Short intense periods of hurricanes followed by relatively long quiet periods, were found around the Caribbean Sea and the clustering was particularly strong in Florida, the Bahamas, Belize, Honduras, Haiti and Jamaica.
Modelling of corals reefs of the Caribbean found that clustered hurricanes are 'better' for coral reef health than random hurricane events as the first hurricane always causes a lot of damage but then those storms that follow in quick succession don't add much additional damage as most of the fragile corals were removed by the first storm.
The following prolonged period without hurricanes allows the corals to recover and then remain in a reasonable state prior to being hit by the next series of storms.
It is important to consider the clustered nature of hurricane events when predicting the impacts of storms and climate change on ecosystems. For coral reefs, forecasts of habitat collapse were overly pessimistic and have been predicted at least 10 years too early as hurricanes were assumed to occur randomly over time, which is how most research projects model the incidence of future hurricanes.
'Cyclones have always been a natural part of coral reef lifecycles', says study author Professor Peter Mumby. 'However, with the additional stresses people have placed upon ecosystems like fishing, pollution and climate change, the impacts of cyclones linger a lot longer than they did in the past.'
Mumby adds, 'If we are to predict the future of coral reefs it's really important to consider the clustering of cyclone events. For a given long term rate of hurricanes (e.g., once per decade), clustered events are less damaging.'
Clustering of storms and other weather events is a global phenomenon that needs to be better quantified statistically in risk assessments' says study author Professor David Stephenson. 'We didn't at first expect clustering to have advantages but this study has clearly shown that clustering can help by giving ecosystems more time to recover from natural catastrophes'
Professor Stephenson adds, 'This research also has wider implications for other systems such as the dynamics and viability of insurance companies and the provision of reinsurance protection.'
"Reinsurance companies are a bit like ecosystems and so need time to recover after major losses - so clustering of hurricanes allows the industry to build profits before the next cluster of storm losses. They are different from corals in that they actually need a few hurricanes for them to be able to grow." Said Professor Stephenson.
Peter Mumby is Professor of marine ecology and heads the Healthy Oceans program at the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
David Stephenson is Professor of statistical climatology at the University of Exeter and a founding member of the Willis Research Network (www.willisresearchnetwork.com), the research arm of Willis Re which kindly helped fund the research at Exeter.
About the Global Change Institute
The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, Australia, is a new source of game-changing research, ideas and advice for addressing the challenges of global change. The Global Change Institute advances discovery, creates solutions and advocates changes to policies that respond to challenges presented by climate change, technological innovation and population change.
About Exeter Climate Systems
Exeter Climate Systems (XCS) (www1.secam.ex.ac.uk/xcs) is a world-leading research centre formed in the mathematics research institute at the University of Exeter in 2007. XCS works at the interface of mathematical and climate sciences, and has strong partnerships with the nearby UK Met Office. Four members of staff are (coordinating) lead authors in the forthcoming IPCC report.
Peter Mumby | EurekAlert!
New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences