Solar pacing of storm surges, coastal flooding and agricultural losses in the Central Mediterranean

Storm surges, leading to catastrophic coastal flooding, are amongst the most feared natural hazards due to the high population densities and economic importance of littoral areas. Using the Central Mediterranean Sea as a model system, we provide strong evidence for enhanced periods of storminess leading to coastal flooding during the last 4500 years. We show that long-term correlations can be drawn between storminess and solar activity, acting on cycles of around 2200-yr and 230-yr. We also find that phases of increased storms and coastal flooding have impacted upon mid- to late Holocene agricultural activity on the Adriatic coast. Based on the general trend observed during the second half of the 20th century, climate models are predicting a weakening of Mediterranean storminess. By contrast, our new data suggest that a decrease in solar activity will increase and intensify the risk of frequent flooding in coastal areas.

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