A research tool used primarily by the oil industry is finding a new application as a means for climatologists to gather climate data. How's that for irony? Foraminifera, single-celled organisms that produce easily-identified shells, are readily preserved in ocean and shore sediments. Samples can be tied to particular times and locations, making them useful for geologists looking for oil-rich layers; this also makes it possible to use foraminifera to identify disturbances such as hurricanes. By looking back over foraminfera fossils pulled up from shore samples, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte are able to track the frequency of major hurricanes over the past several thousand years. The results are suggestive, but more research remains to be done.
"The record indicates that big storms have been less frequent in the last 1000 years than in the previous 2000 years before that," Hippensteel said. Recent layers contained far fewer layers of sand and very few layers containing significant numbers of off-shore foraminifera, compared with numerous such layers in the previous millennia. [...] "Our records seem to show that we have been in a thousand year period of relative calm, but that result doesn't consider the possible destruction of the storm layers," he said. "Hurricanes may have been far more frequent before a thousand years ago but we really don't know yet. We need more data."
Thats nothing new, we in the geological field have been doing paleoclimatic work with foraminifera for a good thirty years now. We're not all oil geologists you know.
And the oil guys have been doing the research too they just dont talk about what they find;/
One of my old teachers worked for the oil companies in marine geology/oceanography and well lets just say what he could tell me realy was freaky.
The oil companies spend TONS of money on this sort of thing because they have 10 billion dollar rigs they need to insure and be assured will survive x years...