Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 14:54 UK

Lessons on climate change in Scotland 'gathering dust'

Lighthouse at Tarbat Ness. Copyright: Iain Maclean
Prof Dawson said lighthouse keepers' logs could prove useful

Clues to climate change are lying "gathering dust" in Scottish archives, a leading university lecturer has said.

Prof Alastair Dawson said a "huge amount" could be learned by studying records on weather, such as lighthouse keepers' logs.

He made the comments in an article for the latest edition of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency magazine.

Prof Dawson is assistant director of the Aberdeen University's Institute for Coastal Science and Management.

In the spring edition of Sepa View, he said much could be learned about significant changes in Scotland's climate in the past and how it affected people and agriculture.

We need first to learn the nature of past changes
Prof Alastair Dawson

Prof Dawson, author of the book So Foul and Fair a Day: a History of Scotland's Weather and Climate, said from the 1400s the weather became colder and storms were more frequent.

As well as ruining harvests, he said storms affected emigration and highlighted the tragedy involving a ship of Scots migrants that left Raasay headed for Australia before being wrecked off Jura in June 1850.

Prof Dawson said even in the modern age of high technology people were still "blissfully ignorant" about how the planet's climate system works.

He said there needed to be greater awareness of the social problems caused by weather extremes in the past.

Prof Dawson said: "For Scotland, most of this information has not been studied.

"It lies, gathering dust, on the shelves of our libraries, in diaries, in the meticulous weather logs painstakingly compiled by lighthouse keepers.

"If we are to have an informed discussion on how our weather and climate is changing, we need first to learn the nature of past changes and provide reasoned explanations of why such changes took place."

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