Intense New England Hurricanes Much More Numerous 340 to 1800 Years Ago

By: Jeff Masters , 6:43 PM GMT on February 17, 2015

Numerous Category 3 and 4 hurricanes frequently pounded New England during the first millennium, from the peak of the Roman Empire into the height of the Middle Ages, said a study accepted for publication this month in the open-access journal Earth’s Future, Climate Forcing of Unprecedented Intense-Hurricane Activity in the Last 2,000 Years. These prehistoric hurricanes were stronger than any hurricane documented to hit the region since the mid-1800s, and would be catastrophic if they hit the region today, according to Jeff Donnelly, a scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts and lead author of the new paper. In a press release, Donnelly said, “We hope this study broadens our sense of what is possible and what we should expect in a warmer climate. We may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years.”


Figure 1. The storm surge from Category 2 Hurricane Carol in 1954 batters New England's Edgewood Yacht Club near Providence, Rhode Island. Image credit: NOAA Photo Library.

The paper is the latest contribution to the field of paleotempestology--the study of past tropical cyclone activity by means sediment deposits, cave speleothems, tree rings, coral deposits, as well as historical documentary records. In this case, the researchers took sediment cores from Salt Pond near Falmouth on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The pond is separated from the ocean by a 1.3- to 1.8-meter (4.3- to 5.9-foot) high sand barrier. Over hundreds of years, storm surges from Category 2 and stronger hurricanes have deposited sediment over the barrier and into the pond. The scientists were able to calibrate the timing of the intense hurricane strikes by dating the layers from Category 2 Hurricane Bob of 1991, the 1675 (September 7) New England hurricane, and the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635, which passed across southeastern New England and caused widespread damage consistent with a category 3 hurricane.


Figure 2. Scientists collect a sediment core from Salt Pond in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to study hurricane overwash deposits placed there by storm surges from intense hurricanes. The aluminum tube was vibrated into the muddy sediment at the bottom of the pond and then extracted with a hoist. Image Credit: WHOI

The prehistoric sediments showed that there were two periods of elevated intense hurricane activity on Cape Cod--from 150 to 1150, and from 1400 to 1675. Previous paleotempestology studies also found evidence of high hurricane activity during 150 - 1150 A.D. from the Caribbean to the Gulf Coast. Both time periods had unusually warm sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Main Development Region for hurricanes, from the Caribbean to the coast of Africa. Warm ocean temperatures in this region have been linked to increased intense hurricane activity by a number of recent research papers. In recent decades, ocean temperatures in the Main Development Region have surpassed the warmth of prehistoric levels, and these waters are expected to warm further over the next century as the climate heats up, suggesting that intense hurricane activity in New England may return to the levels of 340 to 1800 years ago. However, other factors besides warming SSTs will also shape what happens in the North Atlantic. For example, the pattern of ocean warming could bring more El Niño-style wind shear to the Atlantic, reducing hurricane activity. Still, New England would be wise to take heed of Donnelly's advice that we may need to begin planning for a category 3 hurricane landfall every decade or so rather than every 100 or 200 years.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting 334. StormTrackerScott:



Saw nearly 70" last year and we are already off to a fast start again this year and I worry that with every model except one showing El-Nino that a predominate westerly flow maybe in place again this Summer as was the case last year.


We still had plenty of rain in Tampa last summer with a predominate westerly flow. There was a pretty pronounced 2 week dry period in June, but the rest of the summer was very wet. All that seems to do is change the timing of the rain from afternoon to mornings.

With that said, when we got drilled in late September with about 11 inches of rain in 4-5 days, that was due to an easterly flow combined with PWATs through the roof.

C FL is just in a really wet pattern right now with no end in sight.
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December PDO of 2.51 and January PDO of 2.45 are just incredible readings for 2 months straight.
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Quoting 329. Sfloridacat5:



Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Between Tampa and Fort Myers the climate just changes from wet to dry.




Saw nearly 70" last year and we are already off to a fast start again this year and I worry that with every model except one showing El-Nino that a predominate westerly flow maybe in place again this Summer as was the case last year.
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Quoting islander101010:
is that accurate? climate reanalyzer org? alaska has been brutal this last wk. even if it is i dont see anything alarming.
I guess it depends on how one defines the word "brutal". But, yes, it's accurate. Anchorage's average temperatures for the past seven days have run an average of nine degrees above normal (anomalies of 3, 9, 8, 4, 9, 12, 18); Nome's average over those seven days was nearly 8 degrees above normal (-1, -3, 3, 8, 6, 18, 23); and Fairbanks's average temperature yesterday was 24 degrees above normal.

Remember, that graphic shows anomalies, not actual temperatures.
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Quoting 295. sar2401:

And thank goodness it is, sport. If it wasn't, we could be saddled with the efficiency and fine safety record of something like the Indian National Railways, where they've already killed 12 and injured 100 - just this month - as yet another train flew off the tracks. Just a few of the 15,000 that die every year in that socialist paradise. Now, tell me exactly the condition of the track and roadbed where the accident occurred and how you'd judge if it was too old to carry the traffic. You've already failed with your explanation of the CSX. It's not their freight cars. They only provide the locomotives and crews. All those tank cars are owned by other private companies, which I know leads to death and destruction your world.
India is a socialist country? Tell me about this...
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Quoting 317. CuriousAboutClimate:

January PDO index is in at 2.45. So has this thing flipped to a positive phase or what?


Gearing up for a moderate to maybe Strong El-Nino as the latest runs of the CFSv2 have been showing a mind boggling 3C to 4C anomalies showing up across Nino 3.4 during August & September. I haven't seen that since 1997/1998 El-Nino. This might get interesting as we go forward so strap in because I think El-Nino is going to come this year unlike last year this ain't going to be no bust.

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Quoting 324. MahFL:



Hmm, so why might I see record cold max and min tomorrow in NE Florida ? Hopefully I am not the living dead, lol.

You are not the living dead, but you are confusing 'most' with 'all'. Doesn't matter, I'm used to talking to people with language deficits (other words most people cannot parse are 'Not' and, most especially: 'If').

Stuck Pattern Syndrome is right now AGW's way of producing those rare cold records these days. Most people alive will see this end, too, for it will be rapidly overtaken by raw Arctic Amplification.

There are probably a dozen or more hot date records about 2000 km west of you for your misery tomorrow.
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Quoting tampabaymatt:


I really don't understand what's going on. Numerous waves of moderate rain continued flowing into the I-4 corridor for about 12 hours straight. For some reason, as the line progressed even a little bit south, everything fell apart. The disparity in rainfall between C FL and S FL for the last 3-4 months is truly mind boggling.


Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Between Tampa and Fort Myers the climate just changes from wet to dry.

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Morning all. no school for me today, and WS danny dropped 5 inches, WS elisha (who hit last night) 1 inch. Very cold, wind chill of 5 above zero.
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Good Morning All, it's -1 F in Grayling Michigan, -2 F in my backyard PWS east of Grayling with a predicted high tomorrow of -3 F and a low of -21 F. We are generally colder east of Grayling in the Au Sable river valley for some reason.
Going to Arizona soon...
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is that accurate? climate reanalyzer org? alaska has been brutal this last wk. even if it is i dont see anything alarming.
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324. MahFL
Quoting 322. cRRKampen:


Experiencing that as we speak (Holland).
In fact most of us will see that end and probably are already.


Hmm, so why might I see record cold max and min tomorrow in NE Florida ? Hopefully I am not the living dead, lol.
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Quoting 320. Sfloridacat5:

.05" for the rain event here in Fort Myers.
.13" in Naples

I got .04" at the house. Pretty ridiculous.


I really don't understand what's going on. Numerous waves of moderate rain continued flowing into the I-4 corridor for about 12 hours straight. For some reason, as the line progressed even a little bit south, everything fell apart. The disparity in rainfall between C FL and S FL for the last 3-4 months is truly mind boggling.
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Quoting 321. Neapolitan:
But none of us alive will see the end of record cold temperatures in places and at times.

Experiencing that as we speak (Holland).
In fact most of us will see that end and probably are already.
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Quoting ClimateChange:


I don't know. It seemed like in past blocking episodes it didn't get all that cold. Was mostly hype. But something changed last winter and this winter. We're seeing record cold. That shouldn't be possible with today's globally warmed atmosphere.
It's unclear to me how one could draw such a conclusion. Even in a warming world--in fact, even in a future world much warmer than today--there'll still be frozen seas, and snowfall, and wintry weather. The Arctic will still be in darkness or near-darkness for six months out of the year, so there'll always be pools of cooler air available to spill southward should meanders in the jet stream allow it.

Here's the current temperature anomaly map from Climate Reanalyzer. Note the two obvious spots of magenta, one parked over eastern North America, and the other covering part of north central Asia. Also note the spots of bright red (Alaska, along with the Barents and Kara seas), plus the many areas covered by darker reds and oranges. So long as air is a fluid, and so long as the earth keeps spinning, and so long as uneven latitudinal heating of the earth's surface goes on, weather maps will *always* show areas of hotter and warmer and cooler and colder. Warmer anomalies will continue to dominate as they have for decades, of course. But none of us alive will see the end of record cold temperatures in places and at times.

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.05" for the rain event here in Fort Myers.
.13" in Naples

I got .04" at the house. Pretty ridiculous.
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319. MahFL
Here in Orange Park I got 0.70 in of rain.
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Quoting 229. ClimateChange:



I don't know. It seemed like in past blocking episodes it didn't get all that cold. Was mostly hype. But something changed last winter and this winter. We're seeing record cold. That shouldn't be possible with today's globally warmed atmosphere.


We still get record cold but not as often. The highly amplified western ridge has picked up some Siberian air and pushed it through North America to the Eastern U.S., something that just happens occasionally and is not that unusual. Two weeks ago I was wondering why with such a persistant ridge in the west, we weren't colder in the Mid Atlantic like 1976-77. A shift of the trough axis a little west and some more amplification has changed that.

Expecting subzero cold Friday AM with snow cover and a near record cold arctic air mass.





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January PDO index is in at 2.45. So has this thing flipped to a positive phase or what?
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Quoting 310. StormTrackerScott:

A Whopping 1.58" last night! 3.60" now for February here in Longwood. 6.91" for the year so far this is more than double what is average for this time of year.


1.59 here for the entire event. .75 since midnight.
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like i mentioned yesterday now td s13 and some of the leftovers of Lam might have a get together and be a bombing storm just offshore e australia
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good morning everyone
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313. beell

Good morning, WU!
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Quoting 311. tampabaymatt:



The HRRR nailed this one. The heaviest of rains fell between about 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM.


It has all year really. My total is higher than Tampa's only because of that one day in January where we got nearly 2.4" in one day.
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Quoting 310. StormTrackerScott:

A Whopping 1.58" last night! 3.60" now for February here in Longwood.


The HRRR nailed this one. The heaviest of rains fell between about 11:00 PM and 3:00 AM.
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A Whopping 1.58" last night! 3.60" now for February here in Longwood. 6.91" for the year so far this is more than double what is average for this time of year.
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Rain totals from NW Tampa:
Yesterday's rain event: 1.22"
February so far: 3.59"
Year to date: 5.87"
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$

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
413 AM EST WED FEB 18 2015

DCZ001-MDZ013-014-016-VAZ052>056-502-181715-
/O.NEW.KLWX.WC.Y.0009.150219T0500Z-150219T2300Z/
/O.EXB.KLWX.WW.Y.0015.150218T1900Z-150219T0200Z/
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-PRINCE GEORGES-ANNE ARUNDEL-CHARLES-
PRINCE WILLIAM/MANASSAS/MANASSAS PARK-FAIRFAX-
ARLINGTON/FALLS CHURCH/ALEXANDRIA-STAFFORD-SPOTSYLVANIA-
SOUTHERN FAUQUIER-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...WASHINGTON...ANNAPOLIS...WALDORF...
MANASSAS...MANASSAS PARK...FAIRFAX...ALEXANDRIA...FALLS CHURCH...
FREDERICKSBURG
413 AM EST WED FEB 18 2015

...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO
9 PM EST THIS EVENING...
...WIND CHILL ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM
EST THURSDAY...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS
ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW... WHICH IS IN EFFECT
FROM 2 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 9 PM EST THIS EVENING. A WIND CHILL
ADVISORY HAS ALSO BEEN ISSUED. THIS WIND CHILL ADVISORY IS IN
EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM EST THURSDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE...SNOW SHOWERS AND SNOW SQUALLS.

* ACCUMULATIONS...A COATING TO ONE INCH

* TIMING...SNOW SHOWERS WILL DEVELOP THIS AFTERNOON. THE BEST
CHANCE FOR THE HEAVIER SNOW SHOWERS AND SNOW SQUALLS WILL BE
BETWEEN 4 AND 8 PM THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

* WIND CHILL...0 TO 10 DEGREES BELOW ZERO LATE TONIGHT THROUGH
THURSDAY.

* TEMPERATURES...HIGHS TODAY IN THE UPPER 20S TO AROUND 30
DEGREES. LOWS TONIGHT IN THE SINGLE DIGITS. HIGHS THURSDAY IN
THE MID TO UPPER TEENS.

* WINDS...WEST 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 30 MPH.

* IMPACTS...ROADS WILL BE SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY. VISIBILITY
WILL BE LOCALLY REDUCED TO BELOW ONE-QUARTER MILE AT TIMES. THE
COMBINATION OF SNOW COVERED ROADS AND SUDDEN REDUCTIONS IN
VISIBILITY MAY CAUSE DANGEROUS TRAVELING CONDITIONS DURING THE
EVENING RUSH. THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS AND COLD
TEMPERATURES TONIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY MAY RESULT IN DANGEROUS
WIND CHILLS THAT CAN QUICKLY CAUSE HYPOTHERMIA AND FROST BITE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW
WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW
COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES...AND USE CAUTION WHILE
DRIVING.

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS
WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN
FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.
IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS...MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND
GLOVES.

&&

$$
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Lam


13P
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:


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Quoting geepy86:

Nope, and ColoradoBob schooled ya on the railroads. J/s
Learn from your elders

Boy, he sure did. You actually don't know how old I am, do ya? If Bob was any older than me, he'd probably be dead. Js.
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Quoting ColoradoBob1:

All very interesting information, Bob, especially your intimate knowledge about BN track crews, but you never answered my questions. That tells me what I need to know. Good night, Bob.
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Quoting 286. FLWaterFront:

Several things. First off, Florida, per se, is not "swamp land." Check out post #202 and you can see on the map that only a small portion of Florida is shown in purple, depicting wetlands, which is the polite term for swampland. Saying "I know it's swamp land" when describing Florida would be like saying that"( New York state) is skyscrapers." I think you get the point.

Secondly, Florida is as much southern as any other state in Dixie. Yes there are millions of transplants in Florida from outside the south but nowadays, that is happening very rapidly throughout the South. The South, just like all areas of the world is evolving as time passes. So stereotypes that are thought to be typically southern may have applied more accurately in the past but not as much today and even less so tomorrow. But still and due to geography, the South will always be the South and Florida is certainly a part of that.

And finally, your post suggests that swampland is somehow indicative of the South or is Southern in nature or even perhaps exclusively. Swamps exist all over the world and have nothing to do with region, including in the US. There are some famous wetlands in Florida and throughout the South but this is also true in numerous other areas, it is far from being just a Southern thing.


wow...i was being silly and you are just being defensive. thanks for the info about swamps being all over the world you learn something new everyday :)
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Quoting sar2401:
Well, yeah, but they don't have gators in the Russian River to add that extra dash of excitement to an afternoon swim. :-) I might add that the entire area there rapidly becomes a swamp when conditions are right.

Nope, and ColoradoBob schooled ya on the railroads. J/s
Learn from your elders

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Quoting 288. sar2401:

Steve Earle - The Texas Eagle

Link
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Quoting 288. sar2401:

I have pickled more brain cells about railroads , than you have ever read.
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Quoting 288. sar2401:

I was at Newcastle, Wyoming when the Burington Northern track crew was laying the quarter mile steel rails out of the Powder River Basin . Their lesbians wore T-shirts that said:

"Burington Northern Track Crew, You Pay, We lay"

Don't get started on the Chinese, and Central Pacific, or brothers who made shovels for the Union Pacific.
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Quoting 288. sar2401:

One of the reasons the South lost the Civil War , every railroad had their own gauge. Which means your train has to unload everything on it, and haul it to another train just a few feet away. Southern thinking.

Plus, they never laid one foot of new steel during the entire war. The Union laid 22,000 miles. All on the same gauge, 4 feet 8 inches, the same one we have today all over America.

Ask me more about American railroads,
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Quoting ColoradoBob1:
Quoting 288. sar2401:
You really don't want to pick on me .
Why? Are you the most dangerous man on the internet, or what? I stand in utter awe of your rapier like wit. Cut me to the bone, Bob. I can take it.
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Quoting ColoradoBob1:


It's a private world sport , CSX owns the roadbed. Freight trains don't run over other companies rails, this has been in place since we layed the first rail.
And thank goodness it is, sport. If it wasn't, we could be saddled with the efficiency and fine safety record of something like the Indian National Railways, where they've already killed 12 and injured 100 - just this month - as yet another train flew off the tracks. Just a few of the 15,000 that die every year in that socialist paradise. Now, tell me exactly the condition of the track and roadbed where the accident occurred and how you'd judge if it was too old to carry the traffic. You've already failed with your explanation of the CSX. It's not their freight cars. They only provide the locomotives and crews. All those tank cars are owned by other private companies, which I know leads to death and destruction your world.
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`
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Quoting 288. sar2401:
You really don't want to pick on me .
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Yeah so far it's been a decent winter rain wise for most of Florida except far southern Florida. There have been a lot of good soaking rain events over the last several weeks in Central and North Florida. Although ironically so far in February Central Florida has been getting a bit more rain out of these events as whole then us despite the always emphasis on higher qpf and rain chances up here compared to down there.

Looks like a decent rain band moving through thanks to plenty of moisture and jet dynamics on top of already decent rainfall from earlier. Rainfall is past an inch in parts of Tampa Bay so far.
One of the really outstanding developments this year has been that every single front stalls, develops, or redevelops over Florida. You've already had twice the amount of rain I had when the low was only 75 miles north of me. The low has now completely disconnected from the front and is sitting over North Carolina. For whatever reason, this is the year not bet that anything over Florida is going to under perform.
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Quoting 288. sar2401:

Bob, what railroad owns that track? What is the physical condition of the track and roadbed? What's the accident history for that section of track? You really don't have a clue, do you? Just spouting based on faith that everything is run by morons and fools.


It's a private world sport , CSX owns the roadbed. Freight trains don't run over other companies rails, this has been in place since we layed the first rail.
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Quoting FLWaterFront:
Several things. First off, Florida, per se, is not "swamp land." Check out post #202 and you can see on the map that only a small portion of Florida is shown in purple, depicting wetlands, which is the polite term for swampland. Saying "I know it's swamp land" when describing Florida would be like saying that"( New York state) is skyscrapers." I think you get the point.

Secondly, Florida is as much southern as any other state in Dixie. Yes there are millions of transplants in Florida from outside the south but nowadays, that is happening very rapidly throughout the South. The South, just like all areas of the world is evolving as time passes. So stereotypes that are thought to be typically southern may have applied more accurately in the past but not as much today and even less so tomorrow. But still and due to geography, the South will always be the South and Florida is certainly a part of that.

And finally, your post suggests that swampland is somehow indicative of the South or is Southern in nature or even perhaps exclusively. Swamps exist all over the world and have nothing to do with region, including in the US. There are some famous wetlands in Florida and throughout the South but this is also true in numerous other areas, it is far from being just a Southern thing.
Well, yeah, but they don't have gators in the Russian River to add that extra dash of excitement to an afternoon swim. :-) I might add that the entire area there rapidly becomes a swamp when conditions are right.
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284. Jedkins01

On the other hand, you wrote a thoughtful comment. Here's yer atta boy .
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Quoting ColoradoBob1:
PBS Bees Knees produced CNBC is asking about rail cars tonight ,
It's the roadbed fool . It's the problem . Heavy trains, running over old old road beds , what could possibility go wrong ?
Bob, what railroad owns that track? What is the physical condition of the track and roadbed? What's the accident history for that section of track? You really don't have a clue, do you? Just spouting based on faith that everything is run by morons and fools.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 279. ColoradoBob1:

PBS Bees Knees produced by CNBC is asking about rail cars tonight ,
It's the roadbed fool . It's the problem . Heavy trains, running over old old road beds , what could possibility go wrong ?


This is why we all hate the media, they always ask the lazy and simple question.
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Quoting 205. sar2401:

The South is easily defined. There are only 11 states that qualify -

South Carolina
Mississippi
Florida
Alabama
Georgia
Louisiana
Texas
Virginia
Arkansas
North Carolina
Tennessee

These are the states of the Confederacy. There no other Southern states. There are other states in the south, but it's not the same.
Quoting 220. WaterWitch11:



are you sure florida counts??? i know its swamp land but i am not so sure :)
Several things. First off, Florida, per se, is not "swamp land." Check out post #202 and you can see on the map that only a small portion of Florida is shown in purple, depicting wetlands, which is the polite term for swampland. Saying "I know it's swamp land" when describing Florida would be like saying that"( New York state) is skyscrapers." I think you get the point.

Secondly, Florida is as much southern as any other state in Dixie. Yes there are millions of transplants in Florida from outside the south but nowadays, that is happening very rapidly throughout the South. The South, just like all areas of the world is evolving as time passes. So stereotypes that are thought to be typically southern may have applied more accurately in the past but not as much today and even less so tomorrow. But still and due to geography, the South will always be the South and Florida is certainly a part of that.

And finally, your post suggests that swampland is somehow indicative of the South or is Southern in nature or even perhaps exclusively. Swamps exist all over the world and have nothing to do with region, including in the US. There are some famous wetlands in Florida and throughout the South but this is also true in numerous other areas, it is far from being just a Southern thing.
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About

Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather