Shipwreck rates reveal Caribbean tropical cyclone response to past radiative forcing

Valerie Trouet, Grant L. Harley, Marta Domínguez-Delmás

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Assessing the impact of future climate change on North Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity is of crucial societal importance, but the limited quantity and quality of observational records interfereswith the skill of future TC projections. In particular, North Atlantic TC response to radiative forcing is poorly understood and creates the dominant source of uncertainty for twenty-first-century projections. Here, we study TC variability in the Caribbean during the Maunder Minimum (MM; 1645-1715 CE), a period defined by the most severe reduction in solar irradiance in documented history (1610-present). For this purpose, we combine a documentary time series of Spanish shipwrecks in the Caribbean (1495-1825 CE) with a tree-growth suppression chronology from the Florida Keys (1707-2009 CE). We find a 75% reduction in decadal-scale Caribbean TC activity during the MM, which suggests modulation of the influence of reduced solar irradiance by the cumulative effect of cool North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, El Niño-like conditions, and a negative phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Our results emphasize the need to enhance our understanding of the response of these oceanic and atmospheric circulation patterns to radiative forcing and climate change to improve the skill of future TC projections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3169-3174
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 22 2016


  • Caribbean
  • Dendrochronology
  • Documentary data
  • Maunder Minimum
  • Tropical cyclone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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