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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Landscape and Regional Impacts of Hurricanes in Puerto Rico 1508-1997

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  • Lead: Emery Boose, David Foster
  • Investigators: Mayra Serrano
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 1508
  • End date: 1997
  • Status: complete
  • Location: Puerto Rico
  • Latitude: +17.9 to +18.5 degrees
  • Longitude: -67.3 to -65.2 degrees
  • Elevation: 0 to 1340 meter
  • Datum: WGS84
  • Taxa:
  • Release date: 2023
  • Language: English
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.12.23
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: historical, modeling
  • Research topic: ecological informatics and modelling; historical and retrospective studies; international research projects; regional studies
  • LTER core area: disturbance patterns
  • Keywords: geographic information systems, history, hurricane damage, landscape, modeling, region, wind
  • Abstract:

    This project used a combination of historical research and computer modeling to study the impacts of hurricanes in Puerto Rico since 1508. For details on methods and results, please see the published paper (Boose, E. R., M. I. Serrano and D. R. Foster. 2004. Landscape and regional impacts of hurricanes in Puerto Rico. Ecological Monographs 74: 335-352). The Abstract from the paper is reproduced below.

    "Puerto Rico is subject to frequent and severe impacts from hurricanes, whose long-term ecological role must be assessed on a scale of centuries. In this study we applied a method for reconstructing hurricane disturbance regimes developed in an earlier study of hurricanes in New England. Patterns of actual wind damage from historical records were analyzed for 85 hurricanes since European settlement in 1508. A simple meteorological model (HURRECON) was used to reconstruct the impacts of 43 hurricanes since 1851. Long-term effects of topography on a landscape scale in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) were simulated with a simple topographic exposure model (EXPOS).

    "Average return intervals across Puerto Rico for F0 damage (loss of leaves and branches) and F1 damage (scattered blowdowns, small gaps) on the Fujita scale were 4 and 6 years, respectively. At higher damage levels a gradient was created by the direction of the storm tracks and the weakening of hurricanes over the interior mountains. Average return intervals for F2 damage (extensive blowdowns) and F3 damage (forests leveled) ranged from 15 to 33 years and 50 to 150 years, respectively, from east to west. In the LEF, the combination of steep topography and constrained peak wind directions created a complex mosaic of topographic exposure and protection, with average return intervals for F3 damage ranging from 50 years to more than 150 years. Actual forest damage was strongly dependent on land-use history and the effects of recent hurricanes. Annual and decadal timing of hurricanes varied widely. There was no clear centennial-scale trend in the number of major hurricanes over the historical period."

  • Methods:

    List of Hurricanes

    The data file lists the 85 Puerto Rico hurricanes studied in this project. Please see the published paper for details on hurricane selection, wind damage assessment, and meteorological modeling.

    Wind Damage by Town

    The data file contains (for each hurricane) the Fujita-scale wind damage values for individual municipalities across Puerto Rico. Only those municipalities were included where information was sufficient to assign a Fujita value. This file summarizes information contained in the Historical Report Database.

    Hurricane Track Data

    The data file contains track and maximum wind speed data adapted from HURDAT for each hurricane during the period 1851-1997. Please see the published paper for details. These data may be used as input to the Hurrecon model by selecting the appropriate rows for a given hurricane and deleting the Code and Vm(kt) variables.

    Site Impacts

    The data files contain reconstructed wind damage and peak wind direction for two sites in Puerto Rico, the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) and Mayaguez. Each file includes all hurricanes that were estimated to have produced F0 damage or higher during period 1851-1997.

    Historical Report Database

    The data file contains summaries of historical reports for each hurricane. Each record represents a single source (e.g. a newspaper article) and a specified geographic area (usually a single municipality). In most cases, individual facts were extracted and assigned to appropriate fields for ease of use (exceptions include some direct quotations and narrative passages). In general, the data on wind damage (DAM) are the most complete and detailed, reflecting the focus of this study.

    The data file is encoded as a simple text file. Each field begins with a four-letter code (see below). Records are separated by blank lines. HUR: = Hurricane Code (see List of Hurricanes). LOC: = Location (i.e. geographic area) covered by report. SRC: = Source (i.e. bibliographic reference) for report. Salivia = Historia de los temporales de Puerto Rico (1508-1949). Millas = Hurricanes of the Caribbean and adjacent regions. For other abbreviations and publication details see published paper. MET: = Meteorological Observations. Reports of local weather conditions. Also meteorological discussions of storm track and development. SUR: = Storm Surge. Reports of storm surge and of damage clearly caused by ocean flooding, wave action, or salt spray. DAM: = Wind Damage. Reports of damage caused (or possibly caused) directly by the wind. Included are damages that may have resulted from other causes (e.g. unspecified damage to ocean front buildings). FLD: = Flooding. Reports of fresh-water flooding and related damage. NOT: = Notes. Other information. FSC: = Fujita-Scale. Maximum Fujita-scale value for those damages (summarized under DAM) clearly or probably caused by the wind. Fujita values for geographic areas larger than single municipalities are marked with an asterisk. END: = End of record.

    GIS and Input Data

    The accompanying Zip file contains the following files: (1) Text Files. PR.PAR = Parameter file for the Hurrecon model. PR03.GRD = Grid file for the Hurrecon model. PRMUN.TXT = List of municipality names and numbers in the Puerto Rico municipality map below (prmun.img). (2) GIS Files (Idrisi for Windows v.2 format). ELE-M.IMG = Elevation in meters for the Luquillo Experimental Forest. Digitized from USDA Forest Service map. Coordinates = UTM zone 20. Resolution = 30 m. PR03.IMG = Cover map (land or water) for Puerto Rico. Coordinates = lat/long. Resolution = 3 km. This file was used to create regional maps of reconstructed wind damage with the Hurrecon model. PRM.VEC = Municipality boundary file for Puerto Rico. Coordinates = lat/long. PRMUN.IMG = Municipalities in Puerto Rico. Each municipality has a unique integer value (see prmun.txt above). Coordinates = lat/long. Resolution = 0.5 km. This file was used to create regional maps of actual wind damage.

  • Organization: Harvard Forest. 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366, USA. Phone (978) 724-3302. Fax (978) 724-3595.

  • Project: The Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program examines ecological dynamics in the New England region resulting from natural disturbances, environmental change, and human impacts. (ROR).

  • Funding: National Science Foundation LTER grants: DEB-8811764, DEB-9411975, DEB-0080592, DEB-0620443, DEB-1237491, DEB-1832210.

  • Use: This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • License: Creative Commons Zero v1.0 Universal (CC0-1.0)

  • Citation: Boose E, Foster D. 2023. Landscape and Regional Impacts of Hurricanes in Puerto Rico 1508-1997. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF012 (v.23). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf012-01: list of hurricanes

  1. code: hurricane code. Each hurricane in this study was assigned a unique code consisting of "P" plus the year. A lower case letter (a, b, c) was added if there was more than one hurricane in the same year.
  2. start date of landfall or closest approach to Puerto Rico (Gregorian calendar)
  3. end date of landfall or closest approach to Puerto Rico (Gregorian calendar)
  4. number: tropical storm number in HURDAT
  5. name: hurricane name used in Puerto Rico (before 1950) or assigned by the US National Hurricane Center or World Meteorological Organization (1950-1997)
  6. f.max: maxmum reported damage on the Fujita scale (F0-F3) in Puerto Rico. Values based on regional reports are marked with an asterisk.
  7. ss: Saffir-Simpson category at landfall or closest approach to Puerto Rico
  8. track: hurricane track in study region. Land = landfall in Puerto Rico. N = passed to north of Puerto Rico, etc.
  9. rm: radius of maximum winds used in best-fit meteorological reconstruction (unit: kilometer / missing value: NA)
  10. b: scaling parameter used in best-fit meteorological reconstruction

hf012-02: wind damage by town

  1. code: hurricane code
  2. municipality: name of municipality
  3. gis: municipality number in the Idrisi raster file (prmun.img) used to create maps of actual wind damage. Municipality names and numbers are listed in a separate text file (prmun.txt). See GIS & Input Data.
  4. f.scale: Fujita-scale wind damage value. This value is the maximum for all reports from a given municipality. For specific reports see Historical Report Database.
    • -1: no damage
    • 0: F0
    • 1: F1
    • 2: F2
    • 3: F3

hf012-03: hurricane tracks

  1. datetime: date and time
  2. code: hurricane code
  3. year: year
  4. month: month
  5. day: day
  6. hour: hour (24-hour values) (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  7. minute: minute (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  8. lat: latitude of hurricane center in degrees. Positive values are degrees North. (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  9. long: longitude of hurricane center in degrees. Negative values are degrees West. (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  10. vm.m: maximum sustained (1-minute) wind speed over water in meters per second (unit: metersPerSecond / missing value: NA)
  11. vm.kt: maximum sustained (1-minute) wind speed over water in knots (nautical miles per hour) (unit: knots / missing value: NA)

hf012-04: site impacts

  1. code: hurricane code
  2. site: name of site
  3. f.scale: maximum predicted wind damage on the Fujita scale using the Hurrecon model (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  4. w.dir: predicted peak wind direction in degrees using the Hurrecon model (unit: number / missing value: NA)

hf012-05: historical reports

  • Compression: none
  • Format: text
  • Type: document

hf012-06: GIS data

  • Compression: zip
  • Format: Idrisi raster
  • Type: raster GIS