Hot News from the 17th Century

Colder climate = more storms.

We've often discussed the complete lack of evidence behind the global-warming scam.

One of the more fundamental problems with proving the existence of global warming, as opposed to local warming in one spot, is that before the recent invention of weather satellites, there was simply no way to take the temperature of the earth all at once.  There are, indeed, quite a few means of deducing historical weather patterns - measuring tree rings, taking ice cores, and the like - but all are rather limited as to exactly what they can prove.

There are other ways to track overall climate change, though, and recent research has disclosed an astonishingly detailed record, covering several hundred years and points all over the earth: the logbooks of British Navy ships in the days when the sun never set on the British Empire.  The Times of London reports:

Britain's great seafaring tradition is to provide a unique insight into modern climate change, thanks to thousands of Royal Navy logbooks that have survived from the 17th century onwards... A preliminary study of 6,000 logbooks has produced results that raise questions about climate change theories. [emphasis added]

That's an extremely tactful way to put it.  A more accurate expression, and one which the original authors of the logbooks might appreciate, would be that they "blow climate-change doomsayers completely out of the water" - on not just one, but many counts.

Storms Are Not Caused By Global Warming

Not a storm occurs anywhere on Earth but what we hear some degreed ignoramus blaming it on global warming.  Al Gore's notorious documentary An Inconvenient Truth was slammed by a British court for making this charge entirely without proof.  Thanks to the diligence of the officers of His Majesty's Royal Navy, we now have proof that this charge is entirely false.

One paper, published by Dr Dennis Wheeler, a Sunderland University geographer, in the journal The Holocene, details a surge in the frequency of summer storms over Britain in the 1680s and 1690s.  Many scientists believe storms are a consequence of global warming, but these were the coldest decades of the so-called Little Ice Age that hit Europe from about 1600 to 1850.  [emphasis added]

Understand what Dr. Wheeler is demonstrating here.  He is saying that during the decade at the very peak of the Little Ice Age, when world temperatures were at their coldest, which is far colder than they are today, there was a surge of storm activity.  This is the exact opposite of what global-warming alarmists claim: that a warming Earth will have more energy in it, and thus more frequent and severe storms.

Royal Navy officers, whose very lives depended on the weather in a way we can barely understand today, used the utmost care in accurately observing and recording what they encountered, and they certainly had far more pressing concerns than promoting any modern political agenda.  The contrast between what Gorish climate modelers predict and the actual facts as recorded could not be more stark.

It's All Happened Before

Not only do the alarmists blame storm activity in general on man's activities, but they also claim global warming causes stranger storm activity - that is, storms behaving in ways they did not used to.  The logs prove this isn't so: storms do occasionally do strange things, and always have; it's just that our observations and record-keeping is far more pervasive now than it ever used to be, and so we are more likely to take notice of them.  Again, the article:

It is commonly believed that hurricanes form in the eastern Atlantic and track westwards, so scientists were shocked in 2005 when Hurricane Vince instead moved northeast to hit southern Spain and Portugal.  Many interpreted this as a consequence of climate change; but Wheeler, along with colleagues at the University of Madrid, used old ships' logs to show that this had also happened in 1842, when a hurricane followed the same trajectory into Andalusia.

You sometimes hear the saying that every new generation thinks that they are the first to discover sex.  This is obvious nonsense; but to the new batch of teenagers, the joys of gender are new to them.

It's only because they themselves have not been around very long that they feel like there's anything actually new there; their older parents, and grizzled grandparents, had exactly the same fun some decades before, and so on all the way back through human history.  One would think that professional scientists would not be so prone to making the same mistake, but apparently they are: just because we, ourselves, have not noticed something before does not mean that it never happened before, as a little research often demonstrates.

Warming Without Industry

Most devastating of all, the naval logs show a very similar pattern of rapid warming to that which today's alarmists claim to see, and to blame on human industry - but this earlier warming at a time when there wasn't any human pollution to speak of, and which therefore must have been all-natural.

Wheeler and his colleagues have since won European Union funding to extend this research to 1750. This shows that during the 1730s, Europe underwent a period of rapid warming similar to that recorded recently - and which must have had natural origins.  Hints of such changes are already known from British records, but Wheeler has found they affected much of the north Atlantic too, and he has traced some of the underlying weather systems that caused it. His research will be published in the journal Climatic Change.

But now the bad news: as the article states, Dr. Wheeler is performing this research using government funding.  There are hundreds of thousands more logbooks to analyze and somebody has to pay the bills.  That somebody is a government entity which has already made up its mind on the subject.  Therefore, it's unsurprising but no less sad to hear that

Wheeler makes clear he has no doubts about modern human-induced climate change. He said: "Global warming is a reality, but what our data shows is that climate science is complex and that it is wrong to take particular events and link them to CO2 emissions. These records will give us a much clearer picture of what is really happening."

Why, yes, they certainly would - if you were able to listen to your own conclusions, which destroy the foundational arguments so beloved of Al Gore and his acolytes.  But Dr. Wheeler dares not actually say that, or he won't get his next check.

Well, at least he is honest enough to do the research and truthfully report it; we can publish our conclusions even if he cannot publish his.

Kermit Frosch is a guest writer for  Read other articles by Kermit Frosch or other articles on Environment.
Reader Comments
I wonder if someone could do an effective class action lawsuit against Al Gore for wasting so much money in the economy on hype.
August 12, 2008 2:22 PM
IN discussing some of the "evidence" for global warming, you said, "but all are rather limited as to exactly what they can prove."

That is an understatement.

Science news, one of the real apologists for global warming, July 5, 2008, p 10 has an article "Trees avoid Goldilocks' troubles" which explains that trees are able to convert CO2 to oxygen only over a very narrow range of temperatures of +/- 2.2 degrees C.

Trees have their own ways of keeping themselves at the right temperature. The article says:

"Evaporation cools leaves in hot times, and tight leaf clusters conserve heat for cold-adapted trees. That photosynthesis temperatures are steady undermines the idea that a leaf's interior temperature matches air temperature, Helliker says. That assumption underlies studies using the oxygen ratios in ancient tree tissue to reconstruct past climates, he adds.

Observations have validated methods that use isotopes in tree rings to reconstruct climate, says Jan Esper of the Swiss Federal Research Institute in Birmensdorf. 'The findings by Helliker and Richter are indeed surprising, as I would have expected a closer association between leaf temperature and surrounding air temperature.'"

Let's read between the lines here. The Swiss guy claims that "observations have validated" their earlier climate models which guessed past temperatures based on various oxygen ratios in ancient trees. NOW they find that leaves do NOT change temperature to match the air. NOW they need some other explanation for the changes in oxygen ratios.

Could it possibly be that global warming alarmists know a lot less than they think they do?

Science News says so.
August 13, 2008 10:37 AM
It couldn't possibly be because of increased volcanic activity which pumped a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere or anything could it?

I think the point that you seem to be missing is that it doesn't *matter* what's causing it. It *is*.
We need to quit bickering about cause and start worrying about the effect it's going to have, and we need to do about it to keep it from screwing up our so called civilization.
September 13, 2008 3:18 PM
No, Dave, it is ABSOLUTELY VITAL to know what is causing it. If we don't know what is causing it, we can't stop it. If you have a head ache, aspirin or Tylenol can often relieve the pain. If you have a brain tumor, on the other hand, neither of these drugs will be particularly effective.
September 13, 2008 3:53 PM
With respect Julia, I can't agree with you on that point.
While I *do* think that we can have an impact on our ecosphere, both positive and negative, I don't believe that we can control it in any appreciable manner.
It's utter and complete hubris to think that we should try and change the planet to suit us instead of us changing to suit the demands of the planet.
Thinking in that way is at least as shortsighted and egotistical and people who think that we're the masters of this world and should pillage it for our needs regardless of the impact it might have.
September 13, 2008 10:01 PM
No, Dave, it is FAR more egotistical to think that you can solve a problem that you don't understand.

No one has suggested that we "change the planet to suit us". The point here - and a very good one - is that spreading fear about a problem that is not understood is at the very least irrational and at the very worst a horrific catastrophe for national economies.

What is shortsighted about wanting real scientific data about a problem that you expect EVERYONE world wide to accept and change their lives for? Talk about "hubris"...
September 14, 2008 11:48 AM
September 13, 2009 2:20 PM
View From the Bridge
Collecting logs of sea captains will give us a valuable portrait of the seas over time and help provide a clearer vision of future climate change.

They're right! It already has, but it didn't give them the answer they wanted.
October 9, 2009 5:09 AM

Science News reports that the log book data collection project is going on. Now if they don't suppress the data, we may learn something interesting.

Mining the maritime past for clues to climate's future
Researchers collect data through a mashup of 19th century ship records and 21st century crowdsourcing.

Climate scientists need your help — not by sending up weather balloons or drilling ice cores in Antarctica, but by turning on your computer.

Researchers are using crowdsourcing to digitize reams of historical weather data, filling gaps in existing 20th century records and extending their coverage back in time to the period before the Industrial Revolution.

Anyone with an Internet connection can help scientists read the century-old logbooks where ship hands on British naval vessels scrawled weather observations.

Currently, not much is known about weather over the ocean.

“The virtue of the navy is that they sent ships all over the world,” says Philip Brohan of the Met Office Hadley Centre in Exeter, England.

The ships’ data can be used to test climate models and better inform agriculture, says Rob Allan, a climate scientist at the Met Office and the project manager of the Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions Over Earth initiative. The initiative’s scientists gathered in Baltimore November 3–5 to discuss their progress, future plans and what to do with all the data they’ve collected to date.

The ACRE initiative’s goal is to collect details like temperature and pressure from regions all over the world back to the early 1800s. The last big project of this kind, the 20th Century Reanalysis Project, went back to 1871. At the Baltimore conference, climate scientist Edward Hanna from the University of Sheffield in England showed how he used those data to infer the weight of the Greenland ice sheet.

There are still gaps even in 20th century weather data, notably around World War I. But scientists are using crowdsourcing to take advantage of the meticulous record-keeping of the British navy at that time.

The Old Weather Project, launched in October, scanned 4,000 logbooks from 280 Royal Navy ships. Like the crowdsourcing project GalaxyZoo, which asks web visitors to classify pictures of galaxies, online users can read a page and type in, from a shipman’s scrawled notes, the temperature and pressure measurements from that day.

In the first three weeks users digitized 100,000 pages and completed log books from three ships — 8 percent of the total data. A smaller Swiss project called Data.Rescue@Home is soliciting citizen scribes to interpret data from German weather balloons during World War II and from a meteorological station in the Soloman Islands that operated during the first half of the 20th century.

If the Old Weather pilot works, Brohan says, soon other large collections of data could be digitized. Convoys from the East India Trading Company kept logbooks on their voyages from England to India and China during the 18th and 19th centuries, Allen says. The British Library in London has about 900 of those logbooks.

Because as many as six East India ships traveled together as a convoy, researchers may be able to spot discrepancies between books that indicate mistakes. Measurements were mainly made from mercury thermometers and barometers and the quality of the data depended on how eagle-eyed the ship hand was.


November 14, 2010 8:35 AM

It's also true of antarctic ice.

In the early years of the 20th century, several teams of explorers were racing to reach a new frontier: the South Pole. During what's known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, many explorers perished and the expeditions were fraught with failure, but their efforts were not in vain. Now, over a century later, their logbooks and journals have helped piece together a new discovery: Antarctic sea ice coverage may not be on a steady downward trend, but fluctuating over cycles lasting decades.

Much of the bad news concerning melting ice is centered around the Arctic region, which is taking a solid beating. At the other end of the world, Antarctic ice shelves are also shrinking by as much as 159 billion tonnes each year, but a new study from the University of Reading suggests this may be part of a longer-term cycle.

Using logbooks from early 20th century explorers, like Robert F. Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Reading research compared where the edges of the ice were observed then, to where they are now, and found that sea ice levels in the Antarctic summer has only dropped by around 14 percent.

"The missions of Scott and Shackleton are remembered in history as heroic failures, yet the data collected by these and other explorers could profoundly change the way we view the ebb and flow of Antarctic sea ice," says Jonathan Day, lead researcher on the study. "We know that sea ice in the Antarctic has increased slightly over the past 30 years, since satellite observations began. Scientists have been grappling to understand this trend in the context of global warming, but these new findings suggest it may not be anything new."

And so on.....

December 5, 2017 9:13 PM
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