DECEMBER 29 2010 00:25h

Past voyages could yield climate clues

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SUNDERLAND, England, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Researchers in Britain say an examination of records of 18th and 19th century voyages to the Arctic Circle could shed light on world climate change.

Scientists from Sunderland University will study logbooks and records kept by explorers, whalers and merchants during trips that took place up to 260 years ago, the BBC reported last week.

They will be analyzing records set down between 1750 and 1850 to see if the logs provide clues about ice levels in the area in that period.

Dennis Wheeler of Sunderland is leading the three-year project in collaboration with the Scott Polar Research Institute.

"We will be looking at climate change, especially the retreat and advance of ice between 1750 and 1850," Wheeler said.

"The arctic environmentally is a hugely important area, but we need to know how it's behaved in the past in order that we can assess how it's going to behave in the future," he said.

"You can't look forward without looking back."

"This is no longer just a scientific issue -- climate change is of global, political concern," Wheeler said.