Archival Research

Historical documents can provide precisely dated, detailed descriptions of weather observations. These can be used to extend records of instrumental observations and to calibrate and increase confidence in natural archives of climate variability such as those from tree rings or sediments. Of particular interest for CHERISH are meteorological observations found in harbour, coastguard and lighthouse log books, where readings of pressure, wind direction, rainfall and temperature were noted often several times a day over many years. Many sources are yet to be digitised and transcribed into a usable format for climatological research although a huge effort is ongoing to rescue weather data through citizen science initiatives such as the Old Weather Project and Weather Rescue. We aim to retrieve records from CHERISH project study areas for analysis and to make them available for the scientific community.

St Brynach’s Church, Cwm yr Eglwys, Pembrokeshire. The church suffered damage during numerous storms but was destroyed in the ‘Royal Charter’ storm, 25th – 26th October, 1859.St Brynach’s Church, Cwm yr Eglwys, Pembrokeshire. The church suffered damage during numerous storms but was destroyed in the ‘Royal Charter’ storm, 25th – 26th October, 1859.

Archival sources not only contribute to the construction of detailed time climate and weather histories but also provide a deeper narrative of an individual or community’s experience of extreme weather. Here, we can examine the ways in which people responded to specific events, how prepared they were and the types of coping strategies that were adopted. There is a wealth of material housed in our national repositories at the National Library of Wales and the National Archives of Ireland as well as in numerous regional archives and libraries. Members of the CHERISH team have been involved in the development of a database (TEMPEST) of narrative accounts of historical weather extremes across the UK as part of a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We will be building on this and previous research in Ireland (e.g. Sweeney, 2002) by gathering evidence on historical storms, flooding and coastal change and associated impacts from a range of sources such as personal diaries and correspondence; travelogues; newspaper reports; log books; maps; charts and literary sources.

 diary of Joseph Jenkins of TrecefelThe opening page of the diary of Joseph Jenkins of Trecefel, Tregaron in Cardiganshire describes on Monday 7th January 1839 ‘a complete hurricane which blows down timbers, roofs of houses and so on.’ The storm of 6th – 7th January 1839 caused devastating loss of life and damage in Ireland and is remembered as ‘The Night of the Big Wind’. Its impacts in Wales are less well documented.