The Jefferson Weather and Climate Records

About The Project

This digital resource is a historical documentary edition. At its core are transcribed texts of handwritten documents, supplemented by contextual and explanatory apparatus. The edition draws on two categories of documents from Thomas Jefferson’s papers. The main body of the content consists of the record of daily meteorological observations he maintained, with gaps, from July 1776 to June 1826. In this period Jefferson noted weather conditions at 99 locations, including his home in Virginia, Monticello; Paris, France; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. Depending on period and location, the records at times include, in addition to the temperature and general weather conditions, details on barometric pressure, air moisture, wind direction and force, and amounts of rainfall or snow. Jefferson occasionally also noted information relating to ecology and seasons, such as the appearance of certain bird species in the spring or the first availability of produce such as peas and strawberries. He sometimes supplemented his observations with information from newspapers or other sources about weather in other locations and constructed comparisons of rain, snow, wind, and temperature over time. Surviving portions of these daily weather registers now reside in the collections of five institutions in the United States. They are in ledger books, written in the back of almanacs and financial memorandum books, or collected in folios.

The second category of source texts consists of other documents from Jefferson’s papers that relate to weather or climate and take a variety of forms, including summary tables, descriptive notations, and graphs.

In a departure from most editions of historical documents, the main body of manuscript source material in this case takes the form of tables of numerical data and abbreviated text. To provide the fullest versatility in a digital environment, the site contains most categories of the information from Jefferson’s tables in two forms: exactly as he wrote it, even if inconsistent and incomplete; and as uniform structured data that can be manipulated for use in computations and data visualizations. The George Washington Financial Papers Project, created by key team members of what is now the Center for Digital Editing at the University of Virginia, served as a conceptual model for aspects of this edition.

Project Director: James McClure

Host Institution: Princeton University

Jefferson Weather Records project on multiple screens