Caribbean tropical storm activity over the past four centuries



This paper examines the frequency and distribution of tropical cyclones and hurricanes throughout the Caribbean using data derived from written accounts, chronologies, and published charts. Problems of incomplete and inaccurate data are overcome by conducting two levels of analysis; a 5° grid square analysis for modern charted data (after 1871) and a subregional analysis for data stretching back to the late fifteenth century. Significant variations in favoured tracks and levels of cyclone activity are identified for the charted and pre-charted period. High levels of cyclone activity are suggested for the whole or part of the Caribbean during the 1770s to 1780s, 1810s and 1930s to 1950s while troughs in activity are noted around the 1650s, 1740s, 1860s and during the early twentieth century. A noticeable drift eastward in favoured tracks is reported from the mid-twentieth century onwards, while data available so far this decade suggests a strong midlatitude (15–25 °N) preference by cyclones and hurricanes.