Extracting weather information from a plantation document

Burris, Gregory; Washburn, Jane; Lasheen, Omar; Dorribo, Sophia; Elsner, James B.; Doel, Ronald E.

The authors introduce a method for extracting weather and climate data from a historical plantation document. They demonstrate the method on a document from Shirley Plantation in Virginia (USA) covering the period 1816–1842. They show how the resulting data are organized into a spreadsheet that includes direct weather observations and information on various cultivars. They then give three examples showing how the data can be used for climate studies. The first example is a comparison of spring onset between the plantation era and the modern era. A modern median final spring freeze event (for the years 1943–2017) occurs a week earlier than the historical median (for the years 1822–1839). The second analysis involves developing an index for midsummer temperatures from the timing of the first malaria-like symptoms in the plantation population each year. The median day when these symptoms would begin occurring in the modern period is a month and a half earlier than the median day they occurred in the historical period. The final example is a three-point temperature index generated from ordinal weather descriptions in the document. The authors suggest that this type of local weather information from historical archives, either direct from observations or indirect from phenophase timing, can be useful toward a more complete understanding of climates of the past.

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Burris, Gregory / Washburn, Jane / Lasheen, Omar / et al: Extracting weather information from a plantation document. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Gregory Burris et al.

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