Abstract

It is highly debated whether global warming contributed to the strong hurricane activity observed during the last decade. The crux of the recent debate is the limited length of the reliable instrumental record that exacerbates the detection of possible long-term changes in hurricane activity, which naturally exhibits strong multidecadal variations that are associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The AMO, itself a major mode of climate variability, remains also poorly understood because of limited data. Here, we present the first coral-based proxy record (δ18O) that clearly captures multidecadal variations in the AMO and the hurricane activity. Our record, obtained from a brain coral situated in the Atlantic hurricane domain, is equally sensitive to variations in sea surface temperature (SST) and seawater δ18O, with the latter being strongly linked to precipitation, by this means amplifying large-scale climate signals in coral δ18O. The SST and precipitation signals in the coral provide the longest, thus far, continuous proxy-based record of hurricane activity that interestingly exhibits a long-term increase over the last century. As multidecadal SST variations in this region are closely related to the AMO, this study raises new possibilities to extend the limited observations and to gain new insights into the mechanisms underlying the AMO and long-term hurricane variations.

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