ASK TOM WHY: Do Chicago weather records older than the late 1800s exist?

Dear Tom,

Chicago’s weather records date from the late 1800s. Do older weather records exist, say from Europe?

— John Lewis, Schaumburg

 
Dear John,

Dr. Marc Rothenberg, agency historian for the National Science Foundation, says the earliest known regular weather records were kept beginning in the 1650s in Italy.

Weather observations from England dating to 1697 have been located as well. Much older references to the weather have been found, usually as side comments in other records.

In the United States, the earliest weather records date from the 1720s in the Boston area. Joseph Henry, of the Smithsonian Institution, established the country’s first weather observation network in 1848. The U.S. Weather Bureau initiated observations on Nov. 1, 1870.

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