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Using Historical Narratives to Pinpoint and Analyze Extreme Events

Climate History
01 Apr 2021
Using Historical Narratives to Pinpoint and Analyze Extreme Events

In a  journal article about Singapore’s 19th-century climate history, Assistant Professor Fiona Williamson reclaims surviving instrumental records for the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Penang, and Malacca) between 1786 and 1917. She explores the types of records available and the circumstances of their production, and uses historical context to explain how and why inaccuracies or gaps in the record may have occurred.

Compared to Europe and North America, information on historic weather and climate of Southeast Asia is scarce, for both historic and political reasons. But as the results of her data recovery efforts show, it does not mean that such data do not exist. For Dr. Williamson, the biggest takeaway from this exercise was “the shocking amount of weather records that were made and have survived. These help us to really understand how much climate has changed in Singapore, even before the 1960s.”

Williamson, F.: Building a long-time series for weather and extreme weather in the Straits Settlements: a multi-disciplinary approach to the archives of societies, Clim. Past, 17, 791–803,, 2021.