Weather observations are vital for climate change monitoring and prediction. For the world's oceans, there are many meteorological and oceanographic observations available back to the mid-twentieth century, but coverage is limited in earlier periods, and particularly also during the two world wars. Before 1850 there are currently very few instrumental observations available. Consequently, detailed observational estimates of surface climate change can be made only back to the mid-nineteenth century. To improve and extend this early coverage, scientists need more observations from these periods. Fortunately, many such observations exist in logbooks, reports, and other paper records, but their inclusion in the climatic datasets requires that these paper records be abstracted from the world's archives, digitized into an electronic form, and blended into existing climate databases.

As a first step in this direction, selected Royal Navy logbooks from the period of 1938–47, kept in the U.K. National Archives, have been photographed and digitized. These have provided more than 1,500,000 new observations for this period, and a preliminary analysis has shown significant improvements to the record of climate change in the mid-twentieth century.

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Met Office, Hadley Centre for Climate Change, Exeter, United Kingdom

Sourcecorp/NCDC, Asheville, North Carolina

STG, Inc./NCDC, Reston, Virginia

Department of Geopgraphy, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, United Kingdom

Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom

Earth Systems Research Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado