Testing coral-based tropical cyclone reconstructions: An example from puerto rico

Kilbourne, K. Halimeda, Ryan P. Moyer, Terrence M. Quinn, and Andrea G. Grottoli. 2011. Testing coral-based tropical cyclone reconstructions: An example from puerto rico. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology 307 (1-4) (JUL 1): 90-7.

Complimenting modern records of tropical cyclone activity with longer historical and paleoclimatological records would increase our understanding of natural tropical cyclone variability on decadal to centennial time scales. Tropical cyclones produce large amounts of precipitation with significantly lower δ18O values than normal precipitation, and hence may be geochemically identifiable as negative δ18O anomalies in marine carbonate δ18O records. This study investigates the usefulness of coral skeletal δ18O as a means of reconstructing past tropical cyclone events. Isotopic modeling of rainfall mixing with seawater shows that detecting an isotopic signal from a tropical cyclone in a coral requires a salinity of ~33 psu at the time of coral growth, but this threshold is dependent on the isotopic composition of both fresh and saline end-members. A comparison between coral δ18O and historical records of tropical cyclone activity, river discharge, and precipitation from multiple sites in Puerto Rico shows that tropical cyclones are not distinguishable in the coral record from normal rainfall using this approach at these sites.