Unlocking pre-1850 instrumental meteorological records: A global inventory

From the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

Stefan Brönnimann

Affiliations Institute of Geography and Oeschger Centre, University of Bern, Switzerland

https://doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-19-0040.1

Published Online: 10 September 2019

Abstract

A global inventory of early instrumental meteorological measurements is compiled. It comprises thousands of series, many of which have not been digitized, pointing to the potential of weather data rescue.

Instrumental meteorological measurements from periods prior to the start of national weather services are designated “early instrumental data”. They have played an important role in climate research as they allow daily-to-decadal variability and changes of temperature, pressure, and precipitation, including extremes, to be addressed. Early instrumental data can also help place 21st century climatic changes into a historical context such as to define pre-industrial climate and its variability. Until recently, the focus was on long, high-quality series, while the large number of shorter series (which together also cover long periods) received little to no attention. The shift in climate and climate impact research from mean climate characteristics towards weather variability and extremes, as well as the success of historical reanalyses which make use of short series, generates a need for locating and exploring further early instrumental measurements. However, information on early instrumental series has never been electronically compiled on a global scale. Here we attempt a worldwide compilation of metadata on early instrumental meteorological records prior to 1850 (1890 for Africa and the Arctic). Our global inventory comprises information on several thousand records, about half of which have not yet been digitized (not even as monthly means), and only approximately 20% of which have made it to global repositories. The inventory will help to prioritize data rescue efforts and can be used to analyze the potential feasibility of historical weather data products. The inventory will be maintained as a living document and is a first, critical, step towards the systematic rescue and re-evaluation of these highly valuable early records. Additions to the inventory are welcomed.

Full article here.

HT/Steven Mosher

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83 thoughts on “Unlocking pre-1850 instrumental meteorological records: A global inventory

    • I’m sure adjustments can be made to bring the data up to modern analytical standards… voila! The data supports global warming! 🙁

      With winter approaching in the northern hemisphere, I’d welcome more warming.

      And I note that many of the climate change prevention crowd (e.g. Trudeau, Gore) will be vacationing in some place that is 10 to 30C warmer than their homes.

      • HISTALP contains many longer records ( mainly Swiss and Austrian ) but if you want to see the numbers they ask a stupid amount of money.

        I saw what looked like an obvious error in processing HISTALP data by Bohm. At that time their site said all data was freely available. When I asked for it they refused. When I pointed out they claimed it was freely available they changed the web site and said I had to pay a 300 euro ” extraction fee” and sign a non-disclosure agreement. Only WMO recognised bodies get it for free.

        This is yet more of the Phil Jones ” why should I let you have our data, you only want to find something wrong with it ” attitude. ( Recall I.P. on Swiss data was going to be Jones’ fallback position if he ever got told he had to release data ).

        The project will only be of value to science if the contents are freely available and “corrections” are transparent and falsifiable.

        • They should not be worried about anything being challenged if they truly “care” about the world and people who inhabit it, right, they really don’t care.

        • Sign a non-disclosure agreement? Really? Sounds very transparent and in keeping with norms for distribution of data.

          • If the assembling of that data was financed by public money, (in almost any country), specific guarantees will have been included in the accompanying agreement. Those will almost certainly ensure that the data is semi public property.

            Price and non disclosure agreements will not apply except in the most exceptional circumstances and I’ve never been involved in funding anything that warranted that kind of exception, unless it involved the private sector.

            What concerns me is that you think it’s “norms”. I’d like you to give an example of an instance you’ve been involved in. You have my word that I’ll follow it through all the way to the original funder…

        • The website on the wayback machine confirms what you’ve said – “free, but acknowledge”.

          I’d try again and mention that you will make a complaint to the Austrian Science fund (who write the checks) that they are preventing access to information that has been funded by the ASF and is almost certainly in conflict with a funding condition.

          They will cave in when you say that you will write to the Minister in charge of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

          • Old England

            How can you trust in such a superficial, statistically ill-born, highly tricky stuff based on a few stations?

            1. JMA has no “own” stations. All stuff concerning JMA’s land surface temperature average came before 2000 from GHCN V1/2/3, and comes since then from the CLIMAT data set.

            2. NOAA manages the GHCN daily data set which consists of about 100,000 weather stations worldwide, 40,000 of which supplying with temperature measurements.

            Some numbers for such stations in Europe, still active in 2019
            – UK: 23
            – France: 75
            – Norway: 116
            – Finland: 175
            – Sweden: 234
            – Germany: 468

            And you really think it’s enough to pick some stations out of that and then to claim ‘No warming, he he he’ ?

            *
            Here is a little example of how simple it is to ‘compose’ a zero-trend, I have only Norway trends at hand. All stations begin in the 2000’s to have the trends similar.

            NOE00109903 2007 2019 13 BJORNHOLT -0.264
            NOM00001114 2009 2019 11 REIPA -0.136
            NOE00109622 2001 2019 19 ROROS AIRPORT -0.123
            NOE00134454 2002 2019 18 FURENESET -0.121
            NOE00110303 2002 2019 18 GVARV – NES -0.074
            NOE00134554 2004 2019 16 SANDANE LUFTHAVN 0.017
            NOE00105503 2003 2019 17 NESBYEN-TODOKK 0.072
            NOE00134470 2002 2019 18 FLORO LUFTHAVN 0.091
            NOE00134350 2003 2019 17 HAUGESUND LUFTHAVN 0.123
            NOM00001233 2006 2019 14 DOMBAAS 0.137
            NOE00134038 2002 2019 18 NAMSOS LUFTHAVN 0.207
            NOE00134518 2003 2019 17 SOGNDAL LUFTHAVN 0.246
            NOE00111102 2006 2019 14 NAMSSKOGAN 0.251
            NOE00134922 2005 2019 15 SORKJOSEN LUFTHAVN 0.278

            Pick a few out of them, produce temperature series for those picked up, and all is well.

            Good grief!

    • Unlikely, what they are calling the “pre-industrial” period, is better known to the rest of us as The Little Ice Age.

      • I’m giggling so much my cats are hiding.

        552ppm in August in the middle of the woods Germany 1940 with a Anthro bias of 10-70ppm max.

        That makes the IPCC look like a guy with 80% 2nd and 3rd degree burns claiming there was no fire.

    • Well since we have paper records,
      and then the digitized records.
      and then the adjustment code
      and then the final numbers

      YOU are free to look at EVERY STEP and find the mistake.

      This is unlike YOUR WORK, where you never supply data or code.

      • They don’t need to manipulate data, they just correct it.
        “Note that the inventories may not be free of errors or ambiguities, and many errors were corrected by the authors.”

        I read the article with some interest to see how they handle errors. I would think that massaging data sets from around the world well before the establishment of any standards and with widely varying means of recording, instrumentation, etc would prove troublesome.

        Apparently not, they just need to correct them and all is well. They must use the famous unicorn smoother function in matlab, I hear it works really well with both bristlecone pine and squirrel nuts.

  1. “A global inventory of early instrumental meteorological measurements is compiled. It comprises thousands of series, many of which have not been digitized, pointing to the potential of weather data rescue.”

    Have not been digitized and the potential of weather data “rescue”? That’s where the “adjustments” will happen and the original, raw, data will never see the light of day and disappear for ever. A sad day for science!

    “Those who control the present, control the past and those who control the past control the future.” ― George Orwell, 1984.

      • In the film with John Hurt, “inconvenient stories” are filed in an incinerator and an alternate, “correct”, story written. Only the “correct” data will be archived (As is the case today). So, whatever data is found available it won’t be used in it’s raw form if at all. I may sound pessimistic however my opinion is based on their track record.

  2. That could be bad news as so often older data gives the lie to ‘unprecedented’ ‘since records began’ claims of the alarmists. In the UK the Met Office likes to say that everything started in 1910 but there are older records that often show them up even if they are not for the UK as a whole. In 2014 the claims were for record breaking rain which with examination was shown not the be true. They were using UK rainfall records but since all the rain was in England, a look at the England and Wales rainfall record that goes back further shows it was not true.

    • Not in front of my pc so I can’t provide actual quotes but there are some fascinating quotes from contemporary reports and diaries in a study by a professor at Brasenose College, Oxford. It was a reconstruction of temperatures prior to the start of the CET (Central England Temperature records) called from memory, the Long Slow Thaw.

      It includes quotes from Samuel Pepys (of diary fame) such as roses in bloom and plagues of flies in what would normally be the very depths of winter. Other quotes from other years are of ships frozen in sea ice up to a mile or two offshore of the East coast of England, of “great trees” whose trunks split from top to bottom in the extreme cold, ice many feet thick on the Thames in London the long ice fairs, carriages driven up and down the Thames and detailed records from Elizabeth 1st’s court.

      Worth looking up online – the quotes are all in the annexe to his study.

    • It’s like how they like to claim the big bad terrible hurricanes we have today are a result of AGW, yet the “Great Hurricane” of 178, which devastated the Caribbean, had estimated wind speeds of 180-200 mph.

  3. I am sure that a search of the records of the old churches and monestories
    would yield a lot of useful information.

    It would have been easy for a Monk to note freezing and then the melting of
    water. Clouds and storms too, all very useful stuff. Hot and cold days, leaves
    and flowers appearing, its still useful information.

    I am sure that there is a treasurer trove of such real data out there.

    MJE VK5ELL

    • Yes – it has actually been done to some extent by e. g. Lamb and Le Roy Ladurie. Lamb for exampled catalogued prayers for rain as being a good drought indicator.

      He also reconstructed weather patterns during the fall of 1588, when the Invincible Armada largely foundered, based on weather observation in logbooks and Tycho Brahes detailed weather diary from Hven, Denmark. He found that the spaniards were very unlucky, it really was an exceptionally stormy fall that year.

    • re: “Michael September 15, 2019 at 3:21 am
      I am sure that a search of the records of the old churches and monestories [sic]”

      I was going to say … ALL THOSE early, detailed observations of heavenly bodies (planets and stars and the like) by several different people/organizations, and no one was recording weather happenings?

      Yes … this is an area that deserves ‘mining’.

  4. Climate science is about faith – faith in scientists to create an accurate global temperature record (a stupid concept to begin with) from insufficient, low quality data. That’s all it is. Once you accept their framing, i.e., that they have data fit for purpose, then you become like a seller arguing with a buyer over transaction details after discovering the buyer only has Monopoly money to pay with. No one in their right mind does that. They tell the phoneys to go away and come back when they have real money.

  5. Not a particularly complete compilation. I immediately spotted a Swedish 18th century series that is missing. Clas Bjerkanders record from Västergötland.

    Also they completely fail to mention the very extensive records available from British East India Company logbooks c. 1780-1830.

  6. Historical records and proxies are the only window into the past. There is no “bad data” — only data used badly. Some may have no value because of collection methods or other peculiarities, but even that tells us something about the past. Old data needs to be examined with extra caution and context.

    • One of the big issues when using ‘ancient’ data is the unknown and unknowable answers to models of instruments, precision and calibration (and to what standards)?. Since these questions can never be answered, large uncertainties must be assigned to the data [and accounted for in any analysis].

  7. It is just possible that this will produce useful data which will not be interfered with. I would trust recorded observations more than proxies at least.

    • What do you think you will see? A helpful picture of global circulations from surface readings?

  8. After frittering away Billions on the Gang Green Climate Cult Psyentists over the last thirty years, the only thing here of any interest is the admission that there is so much historical data that none of the psyentists could be bothered to look at.

    “Our X-Boxes tell us what the past, present and future Climate are like. We don’t need your stinking data…!”

    Besides, the Science is Settled.

    And as we all understand, once the psyentists have played about with it and destroyed the raw data, it will obviously be further proof that the situation is “worse than we thought”.

  9. Considering how recent an invention the thermometer actually is, and compounding that with the relatively even more recent innovation of temperature scales, none of this data is going to be of any use ?

    If material before the 1910 mark of being able to measure to tenths of a Degree C is being dusted off, it’ll be for one reason only, that of supporting a failing doomsday argument.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    • Event counts.

      What?

      Event counts – like, when the first freeze in the fall occurred, the last freeze in the spring.

      Length of winter, did the Thames freeze?

      Events.

      In telecom these would be called ‘peg counts’ in the ‘switch’, incremented when an event transpires. They can be used for analysis and looking at trends after the fact when analyzing traffic and processor loads …

      Events.

      • “Length of winter, did the Thames freeze?”

        Was done long ago by H. L. Lamb and others. There is a lot of data in the literature, but unfortunately the current crop of “climate scientists” seem to be blissfully unaware of anything published before 2000.

      • Thames freezing?

        now THATS a precise thermometer.!!

        Complicated by destruction of the bridge

        https://www.climate-lab-book.ac.uk/2017/frost-fairs-and-the-little-ice-age/

        “Thames freeze years are slightly more frequent before the Maunder minimum began and also considerably more common 65 years after it ended. Other social and physical factors also played a part in whether frost fairs were allowed, even if the river froze. For example, there is only one known instance of the (tidal) Thames freezing after the demolition of the old London Bridge in 1825, even though temperatures were as low as during the LIA in some subsequent years. Any synonymous association of the solar minima and frost fairs ignores the role of these other factors.

        Comparison with widespread paleo-data, such as tree rings, highlights that winters in which the Thames froze are not at all good indicators of the hemispheric or global mean temperatures (see more details in the article). Although the LIA covers both the Spörer (1420-1550) and Maunder solar minima, it also persisted and deepened during the active solar period between these two minima.”

        • Steven Mosher:

          Thames freezing?

          now THATS a precise thermometer.!!

          No, that’s an event.

          We were counting events … remember?

          Event occurrences tallied or accrued as they occur over a number of years (or cycles, which represents the sample period).

          I can tell you’ve never worked in the ‘back office’ of a telecom firm; ‘peg counts’ in a phone-call-carrying, traffic-handling telecom ‘switch’ are a valuable resource in gauging traffic volume, trunk usage, and ‘switch’ load. Each PROCESS in the handling of a ‘phone call’ in a switch hits a counter, a ‘peg’ counter’ its called, as telephone ‘call processing’ proceeds throughout a day …

          Didn’t you know?

          The WORLD and the application of concepts, physics and stats is NOT strictly limited to cli-sci-fi.

    • The Fahrenheit scale, placed on a mercury-filled tube thermometer, dates back to 1724. The Celsius scale was first used in 1742. Do not underestimate the talents and passion of past scientists. Many were meticulous in their efforts. Very few scientists of today could measure up to their efforts.

      • I’d not bet my life on the accuracy of records based on either scale before shall we say 1800, when Boney got some standards in place. And even then the manufacturing technology must have been such that accuracy would have been in the +- 1C range ?

        As regards scientists, you’re quite right, the early guys from before when being a ‘Scientist’ was even a recognised calling, did fantastic work with limited resources. But they were still handicapped by the technology of the day when it comes to accuracy.

        In any event, when you consider just how much of the world was very sparsely covered by those with the means to make any measurements right up to maybe the beginning of the 20th century, such ‘Old’ records as do exist, being extremely local, would fall into the category of weather ? That phenomenon that our opponents use when the cold strikes and the man on the Clapham Omnibus has doubts about the warming agenda ? 🙂

        • The metric system is based on the imperial measurement of 35 cubic feet of saltwater displacement. Precisely on it. Except in “fresh” water. Just to be French.

          It was called “ton”

          • Yes, damn those Frenchies. However, if working to within +/- 2 microns, it is so much easier if the drawing matches the machine; Metric wins IMO! (And I used to have to convert drawings from metric to use on imperial machines. That was a long time ago now).

          • OK, perhaps for an early “standard” of mass . . . but what about the standards for length, energy, time, temperature, charge, etc., you know, all the other units that comprise the metric SYSTEM?

            I serious doubt those other physical parameters are based PRECISELY on saltwater, or freshwater, displacement.

  10. It’s nice that they are rescuing the temperature data from before 1850, but when is someone going to rescue the temperature data from 1850 to the present? Answer: As soon as NASA Climate and NOAA are reformed.

  11. Looking into my crystal ball I see this coming: “The team was surprised to find, that after statistical analysis of the old temperature data, their model showed that every day was consistently equal to the 8,000 B.C-1850 meteorological average of that day’s temperature – showing that the temperature rise since 1850 is worse than we thought.”

  12. As long as the same thermometers and rain gauges were used in producing an historic set of records then the relative figures could be useful.
    Pro!blems arise when an attempt is made to stitch data sets together.
    Unless of course they are still available to calibrate alongside new equipment.

    When weather stations were moved or replaced with electronic equipment, how often were the two stations run in parallel for a few years so that any comparisons between the two series would be valid?

    • you are welcome.

      This is one of my research areas.

      1. Folks need to realize that temperature products are PREDICTIONS, strictly speaking.
      2. When we use the sample data from n stations to create a Grid ( continous surface)
      we are PREDICTING the values that WOULD HAVE BEEN RECORDED there.
      3. Next, we go back to records to see if we can find outof sample data, that is data files that
      provide measurements where we had none before.
      4. Next we TEST OUR PREDICTION. we compare the field we predicted against the measurement
      recovered from the paper records.

      For this prupose we dont need long records in every case. For example. In greenland there are a bunch
      of short stations that have never been compiled into NOAA records, GISS records, or CRU records.
      Its a simple matter to compare the Predicted value against the recovered value.

      the hardest part is deciding what Disagreement means?

      Does it mean?
      1) new found data bad? ( you need some evidence )
      2) Prediction bad ? — is there something in your method fucked up?

      • re: “1. Folks need to realize that temperature products are PREDICTIONS, strictly speaking.”

        Makes zero sense; a “measured quantity” (a temperature reading from a station taken on some date and at some specified time) referred to as a “prediction”?

        • _Jim

          If I understand Steven Mosher well, he is not speaking of
          – station readings
          but on the contrary of
          – cells in a grid lacking exactly these readings, what means that an interpolation step involving e.g. kriging is needed.

          That indeed is a prediction. How else would you name it?

          If now you subsequently obtain real measurement data for some of such the grid cells, you then can compare the infilling prediction with that data.

          I like to evaluate existing data, but never made any infilling steps in grids. Intuitively, I would test such predictions by intentionally omitting here and there trustworthy data I have already.

          But regardless how good my prediction processing might have become over time: the remaining problem with integrating new historical data as explained by Mr Mosher still would remain, as to decide which of the two I can trust better in.

  13. Someone above mentioned Lamb and Le Roy Ladurie, both excellent sources for very old records, as is Phil Jones.

    Lamb and Ladurie looked at the recording of prayers to change the weather, or the withdrawal of the paying of church tithes if conditions were very bad-typically during the LIA when a glacier may have overwhelmed a mountain farm.

    An example of prayers being made was to mitigate the extremely hot years in the 1660’s in England, one of which in 1666 caused the great fire of London and when several winters were also abnormally warm

    Here is an example of the British being first to declare a climate emergency 350 years before the modern scare,in 1661.

    https://www.british-history.ac.uk/lords-jrnl/vol11/pp362-363#h3-0005

    The Fast to be observed in Westm. Abbey, and the Bp. of St. David’s to preach.
    “Whereas His Majesty hath been pleased, by Proclamation, upon the Unseasonableness of the Weather, to command a general and public Fast, to be religiously and solemnly kept, within the Cities of London and Westm. and Places adjacent: It is ORDERED, by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, That the Lord Bishop of St. David’s is hereby desired to take the Pains upon him, to preach before the Lords of Parliament, on Wednesday the Fifteenth Day of this Instant January in the Forenoon, in the Abbey Church of Westm. being the accustomed Place where their Lordships have used to meet upon the like Occasion.”

    The hot weather of the time was recorded by Samuel Pepys, for example in this extract from his often steamy diaries:
    Samuel Pepys Diary

    https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1662/01/15/

    “This morning Mr. Berkenshaw came again, and after he had examined me and taught me something in my work, he and I went to breakfast in my chamber upon a collar of brawn, and after we had eaten, asked me whether we had not committed a fault in eating to-day; telling me that it is a fast day ordered by the Parliament, to pray for more seasonable weather; it having hitherto been summer weather, that it is, both as to warmth and every other thing, just as if it were the middle of May or June, which do threaten a plague (as all men think) to follow, for so it was almost the last winter; and the whole year after hath been a very sickly time to this day. I did not stir out of my house all day, but conned my musique, and at night after supper to bed.

    Samuel Pepys 21st jan 1661
    It is strange what weather we have had all this winter; no cold at all; but the ways are dusty, and the flyes fly up and down, and the rose-bushes are full of leaves, such a time of the year as was never known in this world before here.

    I noticed a h/t by ctm to mosh for this article-good on you.

    tonyb

    • Or the decision of the governor of Tobago in 1776 to create the first natural reserve in the western hemisphere, the Main Ridge Reserve, “for the purpose of attracting frequent showers of rain upon which the fertility of lands in these climates doth entirely depend.”

      So they were aware of the effect of land use on climate in 1776.

  14. The Good News is that they recognize some little bit of reality: “Such data sets would allow new insights into the transition of the climate system from the Little Ice Age climate into the present climate,”

    The Bad News is that Robert Rohde (BEST) and Phil Jones (CRU) are involved (along with WAY WAY TOO MANY co-authors). The question is whether or not any subsequent the “reanalysis” will be “tuned” to support their personal viewpoints.

    In the genealogical world, FamilySearch, which manages the largest genealogical database in the world, has developed a system for crowd-sourcing massive data input from images of birth and death records, including systems for checking and re-checking accuracy before the data is finally added to the overall database. This genealogical data application handles data a great deal more complex than weather data — those involved in the weather data effort might take a look.
    A thousand people, each doing a little bit, accomplish a lot collectively.

    • “The Bad News is that Robert Rohde (BEST) and Phil Jones (CRU) are involved (along with WAY WAY TOO MANY co-authors).”

      Well, I’m sorry to hear that. They will turn this into another temperature database we won’t be able to trust.

      Is it too late to save the raw data (the actual measurements)?

      • Well there you go insulting Robert Rhode.
        And you suggest that he is dishonest

        The RECOVERY of old data is a CITIZEN SCIENCE EFFORT

        get off your lazy ass, you can contribute by transcribing raw data.

        • I’m working on the data from 1850 to the present. You know, the data that shows the 1930’s were just as warm as today. That’s all I need to disprove you Hockey Stick/CAGW lie. Don’t need to go back to pre-1850. Want to see one of my charts?

          Is all this criticism getting to you, Steven? You don’t normall call people names but i guess this particular criticism strikes close to home. That’s usually what prompts people fly off the handle. That or the feeling that one is losing the argument. That sometimes causes people to lash out, too.

          Namecalling doesn’t change the fact that the 1930’s were just as warm as today, Steven. And it doesn’t change the fact that past temperature data has been bastardized to sell the CAGW Fraud. I noticed you didn’t mount a defense of Phil Jones..

  15. In the Netherlands (sorry, it’s available in Dutch only) Mr J. Buisman wrote up a history in a series of “duizend jaar weer wind en water in de Lage Landen (a thousand years weather, wind and water in the Lowlands).
    The seventh book in the series has just become available.

    It’s a truly unique piece of history writing on this subject, and it starts in the year 753. It does exaclty what _Joe above is pointing at: it recounts remarkable events such as storms, floods, freezes, droughts etcetera,

    http://www.uitgeverijvanwijnen.nl/catalogsearch/result/?q=duizend+jaar+weer

    • Mosher,
      And how much of this data have you helped transcribe?
      Or are you instead just sitting on the sidelines as an obvious hypocrite thinking about the next insults you can hurl?

    • Steven-

      I have to agree with you that many of the WUWT comments of late have been nothing but snark. Thanks for pointing out this paper.

      As I read the paper, it is a worldwide survey of what data sets are known to exist, and what state they are in. Nothing more. As such, it can provide a repository of the list of known data that can be added to by additional research. It is also a starting point for lots of further investigations into each one of these individual data sets. The paper has nothing to say about the climate during this time period. I have a hard time understanding the criticisms, either of the paper or you.

  16. This is good. It fails as a means of determining any past “global temperature” but, it is data from the past made more accessible by being digitized.
    (I assume that treemometers not being included?8-)

    PS I do hope that Steve Mosher resist the temptation to “fill in” the temps from each of these very spotty records for a hundred miles around (or however many miles it takes) to claim we have a “global record”.

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