Date of Award


Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Program


Kirk A. Maasch

Second Committee Member

David C. Smith

Third Committee Member

Harold W. Borns


The purpose of the work is to discern differences and similarities in synoptic-scale rneteorology by reconstructing the weather of the year 1785 on a daily basis. This is accomplished by compiling data from both homogenous and non-homogenous observational records, and from historical anecdotal evidence as recorded in diaries, archives and contemporary publications. Through this reconstruction, it is possible to infer some characteristics of the global circulation of 1785. With forensic techniques, I develop meteorological parameters from anecdotal evidence. These data are combined with meteorological observational records to produce a database from which semi-diurnal weather maps can be constructed. Sources include individual diaries, newspapers, military journals, travelers' journals, ships' protests, and other archival data. These data cover the eastern part of North America from Hudson's Bay to the Caribbean Islands and the western Atlantic Ocean east to Bermuda. The results are presented both in table and summary formats. Although the year 1785 does not stand out as particularly anomalous in studies of average annual temperature, the much colder weather discovered in this higher-resolution work becomes evident. The transition seasons of spring and fall are greatly shortened, and winter patterns prevail for most of the year. Ice storms are common in Virginia, and rivers remain frozen into June. The edge of the polar cell is much closer to the northeastern United States than in modern-day weather patterns, aiding in the development of vigorous storms. Individual weather events can be identified which are not in evidence with annual or monthly averages. As the climate of 1785 is considered by some to be analogous to that in the Little Ice Age, some inference can be made about the general circulation patterns then. The results may shed new light on what weather people might have faced in early times, when weather records are unavailable, and may present an idea of future weather, should the climate turn cooler. Understanding these results will provide new context for investigating historical events. Application of the techniques used here to other years may allow researchers a new method by which climate change on a regional scale may be interpreted.