UMass Dartmouth professor awarded grant for historical climate change project

Sep 5, 2019

UMass Dartmouth Professor of History Dr. Timothy Walker and climate scientist Dr. Caroline Ummenhofer of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute received $110,000 from the National Science Foundation to continue their research project that involves the use of historical data from whaling ship logbooks to track climate change.

Walker has begun examining some of the more than 5,000 logbooks in Southern New England from the 18th and 19th centuries for expertly kept weather data that he logs into a database.

The logbooks, with notable collections in Nantucket, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Providence Public Library, contain valuable daily records such as the ship’s location, precipitation, temperature, wind speed and direction, and storms.

The data is then examined by Ummenhofer to understand how oceanic, wind, precipitation, and climate patterns have changed over hundreds of years.

"Our research program will make a vital contribution to the broad effort to understand the rhythms and variation of specific regional weather patterns over a much longer historical arc than has previously been possible — or even thought possible,” said Walker. “This, in turn, will inform our understanding of climate change since the beginning of the Industrial Age."