Climate in the Age of Empire. Weather Observers in Colonial CanadaVictoria C. Slonosky. Climate in the Age of Empire. Weather Observers in Colonial Canada, University of Chicago Press, 2018. 

Commented by Victoria C. Slonosky, associate member (October 2020):

The issue of human-caused climate change appears to be a new, uniquely modern problem, taking on more urgency every year. In looking through historical documents from Montréal and Québec City to try to determine exactly how our climate has changed over the past centuries, I was startled to discover that not only were many of the scientific preoccupations we are concerned with today similar in the past, but that the very idea of humans altering the climate has been a part of Québec society since the French regime. Indeed, interest in how we have interacted with and influenced the climate has been with us since the beginning of Western thought in Ancient Greece. Climate in the Age of Empire: Weather Observers in Colonial Canada explores how ideas of human activity causing climate change were behind some of the earliest meteorological observations in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Canada.

Médecin du Roi Jean-François Gaultier in Québec City recorded not only some of the oldest systematic weather observations on the continent, but also contemporary ideas on instruments, how weather affected health, and how land transformation influenced climate. These themes continued into the nineteenth century, when global pandemics of cholera and typhus stimulated interest in medical meteorology. Once again, how people influenced the climate also came under scrutiny. For the past three centuries, weather observers in Canada have been concerned with the same issues of instrumentation, urbanization, and climate change that preoccupy us today. Climate in the Age of Empire explores the lessons we can learn from the past, and how we can use our scientific heritage to face today’s challenges.

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