Climate History Network

A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change

INQUA session CfP: Reconstructing Historical Climate Variability Using Documentary Sources

NagoyaOnce every four years, the International Union for Quaternary Research holds a congress to exchange research and set the agenda for future meetings. This congress will be held next year in Nagoya, Japan, from July 27th to August 2nd. Professors David Nash and Rudolf Brazdil and have proposed a session entitled “Reconstructing Historical Climate Variability Using Documentary Sources,” and they are looking for papers. The session abstract is below. If you are interested in taking part, submit your abstract online before December 20 2014, at:

Historical documentary evidence, including items of correspondence, personal journals, fiscal and judicial documents, administrative reports, commercial records, maps and ships’ logs, represent one of the major sources of high temporal resolution information for the investigation of climate during the pre-instrumental period. Historical sources may incorporate early instrumental data, but also include references to frost dates, droughts, famines, the duration of snow and sea-ice cover, and phenological phenomena that can be used to reconstruct past climate. Such information can be used to extend instrumental records, corroborate evidence from natural archives, and explore how different sectors of society were affected by (and responded to) periods of unusual climate.
In order to improve climate reconstructions, extend records back in time and understand the implications of climate variability, the spatio-temporal coverage of high quality documentary evidence needs to be improved. There are methodological issues, such as calibration and observer-dependent bias, which also need to be addressed. The aim of this session is to bring together historical climatologists working with documentary sources to present the results of research at the forefront of climate reconstruction and impact studies, to exchange ideas on the methods and sources used in historical climatology, and in so doing to consider improvements in methodologies for the analysis of historical texts.
The session invites papers and posters related to:

  • historical documentary sources and their potential for climate reconstructions over timescales from the medieval period to the 19th century;
  • local, regional and continental climate reconstruction using historical documents;
  • climate reconstruction combining instrumental, documentary and natural proxies;
  • comparison of document-derived climate reconstructions with model simulations;
  • reconstructions of the environmental impacts and societal repercussions of historical climate variability;
  • methodological issues in the analysis of documentary sources for climate reconstruction and impact analysis.

About D Degroot

I am an assistant professor of environmental history at Georgetown University. My research explores flexibility and resilience in the face of climate change across the early modern world. I am the co-administrator of the Climate History Network, and the administrator of For more about my work, visit

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This entry was posted on December 17, 2014 by in In the News.
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