Data in the Wind: Mining Climate Clues from Whaling Ship Logbooks – latest findings from a groundbreaking partnership project to be shared

October 17, 2023

What can we learn from weather notes recorded by whalers hundreds of years ago? How do changes in winds over the Southern Ocean around Antarctica or trades winds in the Pacific or Bermuda High in the North Atlantic have significance for our study of climate change today?

Findings from a groundbreaking project and partnership between Providence Public Library (PPL), the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMassD), and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be shared with the public on Wednesday, November 8 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at PPL, 150 Empire Street, Providence, during a presentation entitled Data in the Wind: Mining Climate Clues from Whaling Ship Logbooks.

Supported by funding from Rhode Island-based FM Global corporation, the project – which has been ongoing since 2019 – is harvesting historical weather data to further current climate change research. Using the unique whaling ship logbooks in PPL’s Nicholson Whaling Collection, dating as far back as the late 1700s, this project addresses increasingly urgent issues surrounding climate by extracting previously unmined weather information.

The public is invited to this joint presentation by Jordan Goffin, Head Curator of Collections at PPL; Caroline Ummenhofer, a climate scientist from WHOI, and Timothy Walker, a maritime historian at UMassD. The three will present on the Nicholson Whaling Collection, its application to current climate change research, findings and results of the project, as well as next steps and the future of this work.

To date (October 2023), archival researchers have analyzed approximately 150 whaling logbooks and collected about 82,000 individual days’ worth of data. Each day contains, on average, three separate weather observations. This work provides the raw weather data to be analyzed by climate scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a selection of the whaling logbooks and other collection materials first hand in PPL’s Special Collections Reading Room from 5 – 5:30 pm.

The event is free and open to the public and takes place in PPL’s Donald J. Farish Auditorium (3rd Floor). Registration is suggested, but not required: Register at:

Parking is available at the LAZ Empire Lot at 197 Fountain St. – the entrance to this lot can be found off Broadway across from the Hilton Hotel.

About Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering — one that has made it one of the most trusted and technically advanced leaders in basic and applied ocean research and exploration anywhere. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations, and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most extensive suite of data-gathering platforms in the world. Top scientists, engineers, and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects worldwide — both above and below the waves — pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit

About Providence Public Library
PPL is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1875, governed by a Board of Trustees, and supported primarily through private funding sources, including its own PPL Foundation. The Library’s mission is to inspire Rhode Islanders to be lifelong learners by engaging their curiosity and offering access to extraordinary experiences, resources, and ideas. PPL’s programs help to democratize education and opportunity, especially for those who are oppressed from opportunity. PPL strives to connect learners to resources, to new, in-demand skill sets, to jobs, and to each other. Thanks to a century and a half of collecting, the Library is home to tens of thousands of historic books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, maps and other artifacts representing over four thousand years of human history and culture from around the world. In addition to providing access to its unique Special Collections, PPL also serves as the Statewide Reference Resource Center. For more, visit

About University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth is a public non-profit research university in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. It is the southernmost campus of the University of Massachusetts system. Formerly Southeastern Massachusetts University, it was merged into the University of Massachusetts system in 1991. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth represents a legacy of predecessor institutions dating back to 1895. Current enrollment totals 7,717, including undergraduate and graduate students in five colleges. UMass Dartmouth is a “minority-serving institution” (MSI). A priority and goal of our project is to employ and train traditionally underserved and under-represented minority (URM) students and build a diverse research team that reflects local community demographics. For more, visit