Atmospheric circulation and storminess derived from Royal Navy logbooks: 1685 to 1750

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This paper is concerned with the use of Royal Navy ships’ logbooks for the period 1685 to 1750, thereby embracing the oldest members of this documentary series that extends to the present day. The geographic range of the undertaking is confined to the English Channel and its western approaches where the abundance of logbooks for this period allows for the abstraction of a daily series of wind force and direction data. These are verified and processed for inclusion in a database from which indices are derived for air circulation patterns based on the frequency of winds from north, east, south and west quarters, and of gale frequency, based on the contemporary terminology of wind force. The methods by which the data are abstracted and processed are described, as is the nature of the raw data and source material. The results provide a uniquely detailed insight into the changing patterns of air circulation over this critical period that marked the transition from the depths of the Little Ice Age in the late seventeenth century. Attention is also drawn to the changing nature of gale frequency, which revealed a notable decrease over the study period. Associations between changing circulation patterns and temperature regimes are also explored.
© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009. The research on which this paper is based was funded under the EU 6th Framework award for the Millennium project no. 017008. The authors also express their thanks to Jürg Luterbacher for his helpful comments on an early version of the text. They acknowledge also the helpful comments of the two reviewers.