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A sedimentary-based history of hurricane strikes on the southern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 August 2012


Multi-millennial hurricane landfall records from the western North Atlantic indicate that landfall frequency has varied dramatically over time, punctuated by multi-centennial to millennial scale periods of hyperactivity. We extend the record geographically by presenting a paleostrike record inferred from a four-core transect from a marsh on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Fossil pollen indicates that the site was a highly organic wetland from ~ 5400–4900 cal yr BP, at which time it became a shallow marine lagoon until ~ 2800 cal yr BP when it transitioned back into swamp/marsh, freshening over time, with the present fresh-to-brackish Typha marsh developing over the very recent past. Hurricane Joan, 1988, is recorded as a distinctive light-colored sand–silt–clay layer across the top of the transect, identifiable by abrupt shifts in color from the dark marsh deposits, increased grain size, and two upward-fining sequences, which are interpreted as representing the storm's traction and suspension loads. The six layers identified as hurricane-generated display temporal clustering, featuring a marked increase in landfall frequency ~ 800 cal yr BP. This pattern is anti-phase with the activity pattern previously identified from the northern Caribbean and the Atlantic coast of North America, thereby opposing the view that hyperactivity occurs simultaneously across the entire basin.

University of Washington

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