Stormier mid-Holocene southwest Indian Ocean due to poleward trending tropical cyclones

A.N. Green, Andrew Cooper, Shannon Dixon, Carlos Loureiro, Annette Hahn, Mattias Zabel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Geological evidence of past storminess is fundamental in contextualising long-term climate variability and investigating future climate. Unlike the Atlantic and Pacific basins, robust storminess reconstructions do not exist for most of the Indian Ocean, despite the hazard tropical cyclones pose to the SE African margin. Here we combine seismic stratigraphy with analysis of marine sediment cores to look for regionally representative storm-related sediment deposits –or tempestites- intercalated in shoreface sediments from the SW Indian Ocean off South Africa. Tempestites, represented by hummocky seismic units, whose sediments have clear marine geochemical signatures, are found to have been deposited between 6.5 and 4.6 cal kyr BP, when sea level was between 0 and + 3 m above present. Deposition and preservation of the tempestites reflect unprecedented tropical cyclone impacts, associated with periods of strongly positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) anomalies and linked to warmer sea surface temperatures. Future climate projections suggest stronger positive IOD anomalies and further intensification and poleward migration of tropical cyclones, like their mid-Holocene predecessors. Given the rarity of tropical cyclone landfalls in South Africa, this urges revaluation of hazards in areas along the southeast African coast likely to become more vulnerable to landfalling tropical cyclones in future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Geoscience
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 Sep 2021

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