Description and general background to ships' logbooks as a source of climatic data

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Meteorological observations made on board ships prior to 1854 have until now been overlooked in climatological research largely as a result of the lack of rigorous abstraction and treatment criteria. However, the CLIWOC project has shown that millions of potentially valuable observations have been preserved throughout Europe in the many logbooks that were prepared by officers in the navies of the great powers. Moreover these data can be used and treated in a fashion similar to today's ship-based instrumental observations. The most significant logbook collections are from Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and France. This paper describes the main archives where the logbooks can be found and provides an account of their contents and of the manner in which they were set out. The potential of this source is emphasised by the fact that whilst the CLIWOC project abstracted data for 300,000 days, nearly 90% of the European logbook collections have yet to be examined. This paper concludes with a discussion as to the direction of future studies in this important field.
© Springer 2005.
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