Magazine article USA TODAY

Prehistoric Hurricane Activity Uncovered

Magazine article USA TODAY

Prehistoric Hurricane Activity Uncovered

Article excerpt

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita focused the international spotlight on the vulnerability of the U.S. coastline. Fears that a "super-hurricane" could make a direct hit on a major city and cause even more staggering losses of life, land, and economy triggered an outpouring of studies directed at every facet of this ferocious weather phenomenon. Now, a researcher at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, takes us one step closer to predicting the future by drilling holes in the past.

Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences professor Kam-biu Liu is the pioneer of a relatively new field of study called paleotempestology, or the study of prehistoric hurricanes. "People were discussing the probability of a Category 5 hurricane making direct impact on New Orleans," relates Liu. "That's tricky, because it's never really happened in history. Even Katrina, though still extremely powerful, was only a Category 3 storm at landfall."

Currently, experts tend to agree that Atlantic Ocean hurricane activity fluctuates in cycles of approximately 20-30 years, alternating periods of high activity with those of relative calm. However, records of such events only have been kept for the last 150 years or so. …

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