Our Ocean World
Tues. 2003.02.11

Hurricane History

Each year, people along the atlantic and Gulf coasts look with dread toward the sea. A time bomb is ticking. They may be visited any time by the big one - a hurricane. We'll tell you about one scientist who seeks clues to past storms in the mud. Today, digging for evidence in - Our Ocean World.

Hurricances can be devastating. Knowing the frequency of past storms is vital to planning for future ones. But few weather records extend beyond the twentieth century. Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, says abundant evidence of past storms lies in sediment layers along the coast.

Fine-grained sediments normally collect in sheltered areas, such as back bays or salt marshes. Intense storms, though, wash coarse material like sand and gravel into those areas. Donnelly searches for and dates the layers of sand and gravel.

The research will help pinpoint which coastal regions have frequently caught the eye of the storm.

"We can certanly look at individual regions …and say … 'We know better what the probability of an intense hurricane strike is. ' … it doesn't give us any predictive power … in terms of when the next one might occur. "

I'm Marilyn Cooley.

Our Ocean World is produced in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-NOAA. Learn more about our natural world Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - NOAA

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