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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

A 1,000-year, annually-resolved record of hurricane activity from Boston, Massachusetts


Mark Besonen

Raymond Bradley

Manfred Mudelsee

Mark Abbott

Pierre Francus

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Secondary Title:
Geophysical Research Letters


The annually-laminated (i.e., varved) sediment record from the Lower Mystic Lake (near Boston, MA), contains a series of anomalous graded beds deposited by strong flooding events that have affected the basin over the last millennium. From the historic portion of the record, 10 out of 11 of the most prominent graded beds correspond with years in which category 2–3 hurricanes are known to have struck the Boston area. Thus, we conclude that the graded beds represent deposition related to intense hurricane precipitation combined with wind-driven vegetation disturbance that exposes fresh, loose sediment. The hurricane signal shows strong, centennial-scale variations in frequency with a period of increased activity between the 12th–16th centuries, and decreased activity during the 11th and 17th–19th centuries. These frequency changes are consistent with other paleoclimate indicators from the tropical North Atlantic, in particular, sea surface temperature variations.