Digitizing and Mining Weather Data From Whaling Ship Logbooks
This project — a collaborative effort among Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMASSD), and Providence Public Library (PPL) — is a scholarly investigation that stands to contribute a wealth of valuable, untapped historical climate data to science’s current study of climate change and the increasingly critical and urgent issues surrounding it, including climate risk, coastal hazards, and extreme weather patterns. The project centers on extracting weather data from whaling ship logbooks going back to the late 1700s, which will then be analyzed to provide novel climate records to improve climate reanalysis efforts with an exceptionally lengthy historical arc (extending back over 150 years earlier than is currently possible in some regions). This data helps scientists understand weather patterns over centuries, which is useful for modern ocean navigation, agriculture, commerce, supply chain planning, coastal management, and national defense. Putting extreme events (such as severe storms) into a long-term context is one of the main goals of this project, to better help vulnerable communities plan for extreme weather disasters in the future.