Villarini Co-Authors Paper on How Research Links Two Millenia of Cyclones, Floods, El Nino

Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant research engineer at IIHR--Hydroscience & Engineering, has co-authored

a paper, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The article, “Extreme rainfall activity in the Australian tropics reflects changes in the El Niño/Southern Oscillation over the last two millennia,” presents a precisely dated stalagmite record of cave flooding events that are tied to tropical cyclones, which include storms such as hurricanes and typhoons.

Villarini studies extreme meteorological events, what drives the frequency and magnitude of those events, and their impact on policy and economics. With Rhawn Denniston, professor of geology at Cornell College, and Angelique Gonzales, an alumna of Cornell College, the other two researchers co-authoring the paper, Villarini examined historical rainfall records from a weather station near the cave.

“The largest rainfall events, almost regardless of duration, are tied to tropical cyclones,” Villarini said.

Stalagmites, which crystallize from water dropping onto the floors of caves, millimeter by millimeter, over thousands of years, leave behind a record of climate change encased in stone. The research team applied a novel technique to stalagmites from the Australian tropics to create a 2,200-year-long record of flood events that might also help predict future climate change.

For more information on the research and the paper, go to

To read the paper, go to /sites/default/files/files/Denniston_et_al_2015_inpress.pdf.