Military Records

Columnar Pages & Weather Research

One of the most important continuing responsibilities of the officer of the deck was to maintain constant alertness with respect to variations in weather. Instruments such as anemometers for measuring wind velocity and barometers for measuring atmospheric pressure have traditionally been used to aid with this task. By observing the weather closely, the officer of the deck could make preparations for the ship to withstand the effects of wind and waves with minimal or no damage to the ship. The recording of weather conditions was annotated in deck logs on the columnar sheets (aka weather pages). Data captured on these pages included wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, air and water temperature, cloud type and altitude, visibility and overall weather conditions. As technologies for capturing and recording weather data became increasingly automated the need for individuals to observe and annotate weather conditions decreased and the columnar sheets were eventually discontinued in 1965. Some weather conditions may still be annotated in a deck log, such as fog and visibility. 

Researching Weather Events

When attempting to research a weather related incident we recommend beginning your research by reviewing the hurricane, typhoon, or cyclone seasonal data relating to the year that the incident occurred. Although not an official source, a quick and simple way to locate seasonal data is to review the Wikipedia web pages relating to the various geographic areas for tropical storms, cyclones, or hurricanes.  To begin, select your geographic location and then select the year/season the weather event occurred. Once you have selected the season and/or year review the list of storms and dates to identify when and where the weather event occurred. Once you have the general background information for the weather event, the deck logs for any ships in the general vicinity of the storm may provide additional information on the weather event and the ships response to the weather event.

For more in depth research we recommend reviewing the Annual Tropical Cyclone Reports. These reports are available on the Navy’s Naval Oceanography Portal and date back to 1959. Also, to understand the measurements for wind and waves reported on the columnar pages in the deck logs researchers will need to be familiar with the Beaufort Weather Scale. The Beaufort Weather Scale remains a useful tool for measuring weather conditions and information on reading the scale can be located on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website