Lindner, B.L., Climatology and variability of tropical cyclones affecting Charleston, South Carolina, from 1670 to 1850. Journal of Coastal Research, 35(2), 397–409. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
An improved understanding of the climatology of tropical cyclones helps communities plan for their consequences. Many industries and governmental agencies base risk assessment analysis and cost–benefit analysis upon the frequency of tropical cyclones of varying intensity. The inclusion of earlier periods lengthens the baseline of the climatological data and thus improves frequency estimates, but it also increases the uncertainty therein. To reduce this uncertainty, a limited meta-analysis combined seven previous historical studies to infer the properties of the 78 tropical cyclones that affected Charleston, South Carolina, during the period 1670–1850. Return rates for hurricanes are estimated at 5.2 and 3.8 years for the periods 1670–1850 and 1778–1850, respectively (the latter period is better documented), although uncertainties in the historical record result in large uncertainties in the return rates. Key observations for significant tropical cyclones were used to distinguish those that were likely to have been major hurricanes. The estimated return rate of 12 years for major hurricanes is likely inconsistent with prior studies that show an increasing number of major hurricanes in the modern era in the broader Atlantic Ocean, potentially because of climate change. The period 1778–1850 likely had a return rate of 9 to 10 years for major hurricanes in Charleston, which implies this may have been a particularly active period. The seasonality of tropical cyclones for the period 1670–1850 in Charleston is similar to the seasonality of tropical cyclones in the modern era, except that the median date for major hurricanes is likely significantly earlier during the period 1670–1850. Finally, the apparent lack of a change in the length of the tropical cyclone season over the past three centuries may be inconsistent with prior studies that show climate change may be inducing a seasonal broadening in the nearby Atlantic Ocean.