Tracking Arctic Climate Changes

Benjamin Guterman's picture

Using ships’ data at the National Archives to understand weather’s impact on human societies.

How do we reach back in time to gain a longer perspective of climate variations? It turns out that U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships’ logs since the early 1800s hold hourly recorded data about temperature and weather conditions worldwide. A group of scientists and archivists have teamed up with interested citizens and are working together on the Old Weather project ( in an effort to recover that information, create datasets, and produce computerized “visualizations” of climate variations over the decades. Research Scientist Kevin R. Wood, with the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO), says that the project seeks “to transform old data to big data.”

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