The Climate is History

Isotherms January 1885, NMLA# W05.E3 (1884-1885), 728832 Flickr

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Event Details

The Climate is History: Documents as Evidence of Climate Change

12 May, 2014
The University of Western Ontario

A one-day workshop introducing a new collection of archival climate records and discussing the place of climate in the humanities and social sciences. The workshop is organized by NiCHE: Network in Canadian History & Environment and the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Western Ontario.


Five years ago, environmental historians, geographers, anthropologists and other researchers, including staff from Environment Canada, met at a workshop at Western to assess available data for the study of past Canadian climates and to identify research strengths and weaknesses in Canadian climate history.

That workshop began a dialogue that culminated this spring in Environment Canada sending to Western Archives on long-term loan its archival collection of Canadian daily observational weather records spanning the period from 1840 to 1960. Besides being preserved, this nationally-significant environmental data will be made available for research, for teaching, and potentially for digitization.

This seems an apt occasion to meet again, to discuss 1) specifically, how researchers can utilize this collection of climate data, and 2) generally, how to develop research infrastructure for Canadian historians and scientists working on climate history. On 12 May 2014, NiCHE and Western will host The Climate is History, a one-day workshop where stakeholders from Western and Environment Canada, as well as a variety of other scholars, archivists, and digital specialists, will meet to discuss research and digitization in climate history. (On 13 May, Western is also hosting the Ontario Climate Consortium Symposium, “Science and Cities >>CONNECT”; participants at The Climate is History workshop are invited to attend.)

Call for Participants

Interested scholars and students are encouraged to submit a one-page CV and a brief statement (not to exceed 250 words), indicating the relevance of your intellectual interests to the workshop and how you hope to benefit from participation, by email to Josh MacFadyen ( by 28 March, 2014. Participants will be notified by 4 April.

NiCHE will cover the costs of meals and accommodations at Western. Funds will also be available for partial contributions towards travel costs, which will be reimbursed after the event upon the submission of appropriate receipts and boarding passes. Travel grants are expected not to exceed $600 CDN.


Monday, 12 May, 2014

8:30 am, Registration and refreshments
Somerville House 3305

9:00, Welcome & introductions
Somerville House 3305

9:10-10:00, Document Acquisition, Preservation, & Use
Somerville House 3305

What’s in the Environment Canada collection at Western?

  • Alan MacEachern (Department of History and Network in Canadian History & Environment)
  • Robin Keirstead (Western Archives)
  • Anna Deptuch-Stapf (Archive Operations, Environment Canada)

10:00-10:30, Coffee

10:30-12:00, Documents in Climate Research I
Someville House 3305

What are climate scientists doing with historical documents today?

  • Kevin Wood (NOAA Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington)
  • Victoria Slonosky (McGill University)
  • Adam Fenech (Climate Lab, University of Prince Edward Island)

12:00, Lunch
The Wave, University Community Centre

1:30-3:00, Documents in Climate Research II
Somerville House 3305

What are climate historians doing (and what could we do) with documents?

  • Bill Waiser (History, University of Saskatchewan)
  • Teresa Devor (History, University of New Brunswick)
  • Dagomar Degroot (History, York University)

3:00-3:15, coffee

3:15-4:45, Digitization and Deliverables
Somerville House 3305

What is big climate data, and how should we digitize, preserve, and deliver it?

  • Chris Kocot (Archive Operations, Environment Canada)
  • Donald Moses (Robertson Library, University of Prince Edward Island)
  • Response: Kevin Wood

7:00 Keynote “Old Weather and The New Climate of the Arctic” (Dr. Kevin Wood, NOAA and OldWeather)
Conron Hall (UCC 224)

Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, Ontario Climate Consortium Symposium “Science and Cities >>CONNECT”

Map of Workshop Locations (link to full map)

Map of Workshop Locations
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I am an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Prince Edward Island where I teach in the Applied Communication, Leadership & Culture Program in the Faculty of Arts. My research focuses on the history of biomass energy and agriculture. From 2012-2014 I was the NiCHE project coordinator, and I served on the NiCHE editorial board until 2018.
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