Maritime history helps track climate change

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Royal Navy logbooks from the 17th century are being used to plot climate change. 6,000 logbooks, including those of Nelson and Captain Cook, have already been studied by academics and Met Office scientists to highlight patterns of long-term global warming. Geographer Dr Dennis Wheeler, who has published a paper in The Holocene journal on increased British summer storms in the 1680s-90s, said: ‘Global warming is a reality, but what our data shows is that climate science is complex and that it is wrong to take particular events and link them to CO2 emissions. These records will give us a much clearer picture of what is really happening.’ The European Union has funded extra research for Wheeler’s team which shows that, like modern times, the continent in the 1730s experienced rapid warming; his research will be published in the journal Climatic Change. Royal Navy officers often recorded wind direction, temperature, air pressure and rainfall and British archives hold over 100,000 of these logbooks from 1670-1850. East India Company logbooks, meanwhile, contain more accurate thermometer and barometer readings from 1780-1840 which will be examined by a new Met Office project supported by Defra.

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