Building a long-time series for weather and extreme weather in the Straits Settlements: a multi-disciplinary approach to the archives of societies

Williamson, Fiona

In comparison to the Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe and North America, there is a scarcity of information regarding the historic weather and climate of Southeast Asia and the Southern Hemisphere in general. The reasons for this are both historic and political, yet that does not mean that such data do not exist. Much of the early instrumental weather records for Southeast Asia stem from the colonial period and, with some countries and regions changing hands between the European powers, surviving information tends to be scattered across the globe making its recovery a long and often arduous task. This paper focuses on data recovery for two countries that were once joined under British governance: Singapore and Malaysia. It will explore the early stage of a project that aims to recover surviving instrumental weather records for both countries from the late 1780s to the 1950s, with early research completed for the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Penang and Malacca) between 1786 and 1917. Taking a historical approach, the main focus here is to explore the types of records available and the circumstances of their production. In so doing, it will consider the potential for inaccuracy, highlight gaps in the record and use historical context to explain how and why these problems and omissions may have occurred. It will also explore the availability of narrative and data evidence to pinpoint extreme periods of weather such as drought or flood and consider the usefulness of historical narrative in identifying and analysing extreme events.

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Williamson, Fiona: Building a long-time series for weather and extreme weather in the Straits Settlements: a multi-disciplinary approach to the archives of societies. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Fiona Williamson

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