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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Historical Climate Data Catalogue


Historical climate data are important to climate studies because they bridge the gap between modern and paleoclimatic proxy data. They also furnish information about extreme climate events typically not recorded in other paleoclimatic proxies, such as tree rings. Some data are housed in the National Archives, many other important records, particularly non- instrumental, are not. The majority of these records are in historical repositories scattered nationwide, or published in newspapers. Although the efforts of a few climate historians are beginning to locate these data, it is an enormous task to compile, interpret, archive, and make available these data.

This project constructs a U.S. historical climate data catalogue, listing records that date back to the mid-eighteenth century at a national scale. The catalogue contains metadata for climate records from the U.S. Newspaper Project, perusal of archives in personal visits, and consultation with historians and state climatologists. In addition, information was gleaned from responses from an e-mail survey sent to approximately 100 archives. For each record, this catalogue lists the location, archive, the climatic variables involved, and aspects of data quality. The historical climate data catalogue database structure is based on existing paleoclimatic metadata bases at the NOAA Paleoclimatology Program. The catalogue project will also serve as a guide for prioritizing records to be digitized through the Climate Data Modernization Program.