Hurricane Nicole unearthed 6 human skulls from a Florida beach, and it's the latest case of long-buried remains found after worsening weather
- Beachgoers found skulls and other bones in Florida after Hurricane Nicole, according to local news.
- Nicole barrel led into Florida's east coast as a Category 1 hurricane on Thursday, November 10.
Hurricane Nicole's storm surge last week eroded parts of the east Florida coastline and unearthed a Native American burial ground dating back hundreds of years, according to local news reports.
The discovery is just the latest skeletal remains discovered after human-caused climate change strengthens storms, depletes bodies of water, and melts ice.
November hurricanes like Nicole are rare: It is only the fourth hurricane to make landfall during the month since record keeping began in 1853, according to NOAA. Nicole's formation so late in the year underscores how climate change helps fuel longer hurricane seasons and more powerful storms.
Last week, officials in Martin County — which is 140 miles southeast of Orlando — told local news station WPTV that beachgoers stumbled onto six skulls and other bones on a nearby beach. Medical examiners believe the bones are 200 years old (or possibly more), local officials told WPTV.
The Martin County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Investigators believe the bones belonged to the Seminole tribe and came from a Native American burial ground located nearby. "They are ancestors of the Seminole people," Tina Osceola, a member of the Seminole tribe in Florida, told WPTV. "That we do know."
Bones won't stay buried in eroding beaches
This is not the first time that hurricanes have unearthed Indigenous remains. In September 2019, a weakened Hurricane Dorian caused beach erosion that unearthed ancient Native American bones in the same stretch of the eastern Florida coast, according to WPTV.
In some cultures, including Indigenous tribes that lived in what is now known as Florida, ancestral remains are traditionally buried along the shore — and they're under threat from rising sea levels and beach erosion.
A growing body of research suggests storms are intensifying due to warming waters fueled by climate change, causing more and more sand to erode from beaches.
"Encroaching seas are eroding those burials out and human remains are going to continue to be exposed," Jennifer Byrnes, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Nevada, previously told Insider.
A warming world exposes long-submerged remains
In Nevada's Lake Mead, a key reservoir that helps supply water to about 25 million, multiple sets of human remains resurfaced this summer as water levels receded to historic lows during a drought.
Byrnes, who reviews deaths in Lake Mead, previously told Insider that shrinking bodies of water could be a boon for experts tasked with solving missing-persons cases. "A big body of water disappearing is going to help us, from a forensic perspective," she said.
Research suggests that human-caused climate change warms the planet, causing changes in precipitation and enhancing evaporation that intensifies droughts.
Beyond droughts, warmer average global temperatures are thawing and receding glaciers around the world, unveiling previously frozen remains. Over the last decade, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command — a Defense Department task force that works to recover unaccounted-for American military personnel — has recovered the remains of 52 service members who died when their military transport plane crashed into an Alaska mountain in 1952.
"As the glacier melts and the glacier moves, more material comes up to the surface," Gregory Berg, the forensic anthropologist who led the team, told reporters in 2013.
More recently, melting glaciers in the Swiss Alps revealed two sets of human remains and the wreckage of a 1968 plane crash that had been frozen beneath snow and ice this summer.
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