Scientists hope weather data from 18th century ships' logbooks will shed light on how the climate has changed in the past 200 years, according to this BBC report.

Researchers in the UK are digitizing (or, in their world, digitising) almost 300 Royal Navy captains' logs from voyages dating back to the 18th century, including Darwin (HMS Beagle), Captain Cook (HMS Discovery) and Captain Bligh (The Bounty). The books will be publicly available on the UK's National Archives site next year, but scientists are using some of the early data to build up a picture of weather patterns in the world at the beginning of the industrial era.

"What happens in the oceans controls what happens in the atmosphere. So we absolutely need to comprehend the oceans to understand future weather patterns," one climatologist said. The researchers are "cross-referencing the data with historical records for crop failures, droughts and storms and will compare it with data for the modern era in order to predict similar events in the future."

Thanks to kdawson at Slashdot.