CRIAS - Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies



Written records, early instrumental observations, and artefacts such as flood markers - the archives of societies - play a vital role in high-resolution climate reconstruction. CRIAS aims to improve methods of analysing these sources and the data drawn from them in order to better understand historical climate variability and its human dimensions.

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- Coordinate and disseminate best practices for climate reconstruction from the archives of societies from all world regions.
- Coordinate and disseminate best practices for creating data for climate-historical databases that collect, tag and qualify information from the archives of society.
- Coordinate and disseminate best practices for integrating information from historical climatology into paleoclimate reconstructions and climate modeling.
- Establish best practices for attributing impacts on past societies to historical climate variability or change.


Sam White (Ohio State University, USA)
Martin Bauch (University of Leipzig, Germany)
Chantal Camenisch (University of Bern, Switzerland)
Qing Pei (The Education University of Hong Kong)


Feb 2018

Personal documents, narrative sources, archival materials, early instrumental observations, and artefacts such as flood markers - collectively the "archives of societies" - serve unique functions in historical climate reconstruction. They provide precise climate and weather information, from annual to daily resolution, at defined locations for all seasons, as well as their societal impacts, perceptions and reactions.

crias swiss weather arch web

Fig 1: Swiss weather description from the 15th century []. Origin: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Mss.h.h.I.2, p. 335 - Diebold Schilling, Amtliche Berner Chronik, Bd. 2 (

The archives of societies require careful compilation and interpretation to overcome problems of subjectivity and errors in recording and transmission. Their information is neither as continuous nor homogenous as that provided by natural proxies. Relevant archives may span more than two millennia, but their quantity and quality vary by region and period. Historical climatology is the interdisciplinary field of research that examines evidence of past climate and weather in the archives of society, climate and weather impacts on past societies and economies, and the history of climate science and perceptions. Working at the intersection of the humanities and natural sciences, historical climatologists in different countries have developed diverse methods to address the challenges described above.

CRIAS (Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies) aims to advance the work of historical climatology in the following ways:

(1) Sharing methods among historical climatologists working in different regions to trade best practices and ensure the compatibility of results;

(2) Working with paleoclimatologists and modelers to determine whether and how data drawn from the archives of societies may inform their research (and vice versa); and

(3) Communicating standards of climatic causation used in historical research for the benefit of natural and social scientists whose work has human historical dimensions.

CRIAS invites participation from geographers, historians and archaeologists, as well as researchers in all areas of high-resolution paleoclimatology and climate modeling, to further these goals.

crias snow arch web

Fig 2: CRIAS uses the archives of societies. Image credit: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Fotograf: Unbekannt / Dia_262-0562 / Public Domain Mark.


Parts of Europe and East Asia present records with sufficient data from the archives of societies for monthly temperature and precipitation reconstruction for approximately the past six centuries. Other world regions and periods tend to provide shorter, less continuous, but often still informative records. For the former, CRIAS aims to improve the established methods of producing monthly and seasonal ordinal temperature and precipitation indices and converting those into absolute temperature and precipitation reconstructions. For the latter, CRIAS will work to develop new (likely Bayesian) methods to combine discontinuous human observations with data from natural climate proxies for improved reconstructions.

Historical climatology already informs the output of several working groups, particularly Floods, VICS, and some projects of the PAGES 2k Network. CRIAS will work with those and other PAGES working groups to communicate results and develop methods.

Learn more and participate

Subscribe to the CRIAS mailing list here or contact a member of the Steering Committee here.