How old ship logs are giving new insights into climate change

n the 19th and early 20th centuries, millions of weather observations were carefully made in the logbooks of ships sailing through largely uncharted waters. Written in pen and ink, the logs recorded barometric pressure, air temperature, ice conditions and other variables. Today, volunteers from a project called Old Weather are transcribing these observations, which are fed into a huge dataset at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This “weather time machine,” as NOAA puts it, can estimate what the weather was for every day back to 1836, improving our understanding of extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change.

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