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WIREs Clim Change
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Understanding weather and climate of the last 300 years from ships' logbooks

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Ships' logbooks have been preserved in archives of different European countries. This paper reviews how their records provide reliable information relevant to meteorology and climatology, extending the observational record back to at least the early 18th century. This allows describing weather during historical events, improving the knowledge on hurricanes or unveiling multidecadal variability previously unsuspected, such as the steady enhancement of the Australian monsoon, the high variability of the atmospheric circulation over the Euro‐Atlantic region during the Late Maunder Minimum or the relationship between the Western North Pacific Summer Monsoon and the El Niño—Southern Oscillation. Observations from ships can feed long‐term reanalysis projects and contribute to reduce their uncertainties over the oceans. The extended record of observations also aids the search of analogues before the human fingerprint, thus improving the detection and attribution of climate change. The integration with paleoclimate proxies is a complex task that requires merging heterogeneous records with a wide range of time resolutions, spatial density, and responses to the climate system. However, recent international efforts open the field to new opportunities. Summing up, logbooks are a consistent, but underexploited, source of relevant climatic data that will widen our knowledge of the past climate. This in turn provides a way to better understand present climatic variations and predict future changes. This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Modern Climate Change
(a) Pages of the Spanish brig S Francisco Javier (La Suerte). See the text for details. With permission from the Archivo del Museo Naval in Madrid (Ms 241) (b) Pages HEICS (Honourable East India Company Ship) Farquharson, 3–4 April, 1827. The vessel is between the Canary Islands and Cape Verde islands, bound for St. Helena and then Whampoa. Ref. British Library: L/MAR/B/40/D
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Directional indices constructed from ICOADS 3.0 raw data for (a) the African Sumer Monsoon, (b) The Australian Summer Monsoon, (c) the Western North Pacific Summer Monsoon and, (d) date of the Indian Summer Monsoon onset. Shaded smoothed curves are computed as a robust locally weighted regression with a 21‐year window width (Cleveland, ). Note that values of DIs in (a), (b), and (c) are standardized anomalies with respect the period 1820–2014
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Number of wind direction observations in a 1 × 1 grid for the 1800–2014 period available in ICOADS 3.0. Black rectangles (labeled by white boxes) indicate the areas selected to compute monsoonal DIs (see text for details)
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Composites of Z500 (contours, in m) and near‐surface temperature (color shading, °C) anomalies for two types of negative (top panels) and positive (bottom) NAO winters of the 1901–2014 period, as derived from a k‐means cluster analysis of the DIs (see text for details). The Z500 and temperature data come from the Twentieth Century Reanalysis (Compo et al., ). The bottom panel shows the time series with the running decadal frequency of positive minus negative NAO winters from 1685 to 2014. Shading indicates the decadal frequency of Atlantic minus European NAO‐like patterns, with orangish (bluish) indicating predominance of Atlantic (European) NAO patterns
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Schematic displaying the main signatures in atmospheric circulation (arrows), precipitation (hatching) and temperature (filled shading) associated with enhanced westerlies (positive phases of the standardized WI anomalies) in: top) cold seasons (herein referred to all seasons, with the exception of summer); bottom) warm season (June‐to‐August). Solid arrows denote enhanced cyclonic (in blue) and anticyclonic (in red) circulation, with dashed arrows indicating the intensity of the westerlies. Orange/blue shading denotes anomalously warm / cold temperatures. Red/blue hatching indicates regions with reduced/increased precipitation
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